For the first time in 100 years, baby Pinzón giant tortoises have hatched on the Galapagos Islands. Their births represent a small step forward for the vulnerable species.
On an expedition to Pinzón Island in 1970, scientists found only 19 adult tortoises. Conservationists transferred those tortoises to Santa Cruz Island, where they began a captive breeding program, before returning the young tortoises back to Pinzón Island.
Forty-four years after the expedition, a group of conservationists discovered six young Pinzón hatchlings on Pinzón Island in December.
Dr. James Gibbs, one of the conservationists who visited Pinzón in December, tells Mashable: “This discovery is testament to the dedication and hard work of the Galapagos National Park Service over the last 40 years in rescuing several tortoise species from the point of extinction and putting them back on the path to a strong, albeit slow but steady, recovery.”
According to Danny Rueda, who manages conservation and restoration of ecosystems in the Galapagos, there are currently 650 juvenile and adult tortoises on the island.
Rueda attributes much of these new developments to the ongoing rat eradication program on the Galapagos islands. Since black rats were introduced to the islands in the 1800s, they have actively preyed on hatchlings. The program, which began in 2012, has worked to significantly reduce the population of rats inhabiting the islands.
In a blog post for the Galapagos Conservancy, Gibbs writes, “This new bunch of ‘little guys’ is one of the important results of the rat eradication campaign, tangible proof that with dedication, hard work, support, and heart, conservation efforts can effect positive change.”
Additional reporting by Mashable