It was pretty cool going to the Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isla Isabela. We found that where we were staying was so close to many of the attractions we had wanted to see. Since it was a Sunday we were not able to go to the gift shop as it was closed. However, we were more than thrilled to have this experience! Throughout the breeding centre there were a variety of corrals with tortoises that were various sizes. Most were numbered. One section of the breeding centre house the eggs which were being incubated but we could not see clearly into those corrals. Perhaps if it were not a Sunday we would have been able to see more. Like the breeding centre on Isla Santa Cruz, this centre also had an interpretive centre where we learned more about the tortoises and the time and effort that goes into releasing them back into the wild. This is some of what we learned.
It was not that long ago that it was a common practice to hunt land tortoises. This almost drove them to extinction. The population of the tortoises at this particular breeding centre are from the Sierra Negra Volcano and the Cerro Azul Volcano, The tortoises from Sierra Negra have a flattened table top back and longer limbs and necks than the tortoises from Cerro Azul Volcano because they need to reach the cactus pods which are their primary food source. On the other hand, the tortoises from Cerro Azul have a squashed down shells unlike other tortoises. Their limbs are short because their main food source in the area where they live is lush vegetation which is close to the ground.
One group of tortoises, 4 males and 4 adult females that were rescued have had numerous offspring at the centre. Eighteen tortoises were rescued from a volcanic eruption. All the males are active and after 2 years of being rescued they have sired 200 offspring.
The task of collecting newly laid eggs and moving them to the incubators must be done meticulously. For example, the corrals are checked for nests and eggs are collected. Each egg is marked with an 'X' at the top which indicates its position in the nest, the nest number and the number of the female who laid the egg. If the eggs are not transported to the incubation centre and are moved incorrectly while be placed in the incubation centre it is highly likely the embryo will die. Seventy percent of the eggs' temperature is at 85.1F which favours the production of females which is important for repopulation efforts. The eggs are monitored for 120 days and once hatched they are placed in a dark box for 30 days which mimics the the 7 to 30 days the new-borns are in their underground nest in the wild where they will have to dig an exit hole. After that point the babies are transferred to the hatchling corrals which are outside where they are monitored. The tortoises usually stay at the breeding centre for 6 years before being released into the wild.
So, it is a long journey for these hatchlings and even at birth they must struggle to survive. Just think, even if we were able to see a new born hatched, it would outlive us and even at 100 years old, they aren't even boomers (yet). For more information on the work being done at the breeding centre check out this link https://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/isabela-tortoise-hatchlings/
SOME GREAT NEWS!....as I was surfing the net looking for some information regarding this posting I came across an article regarding 190 captured juvenile tortoises being reintroduced onto Isla Santa Fe. This occurred on April 17, 2017. Here's the link https://www.galapagos.org/newsroom/santa-fe-2017/
So, after a totally amazing day in Isla Isabela, we head back,...admire the lagoon and its inhabitants once again, grab a brew, discuss all that we have learned and seen...chow down at our favourite restaurant, and hit the sack. We're thinking we should chill a bit more tomorrow, but who knows,,,,,,it sounds good now...but every day is another adventure!