Polly Nightingale

Some heartening news for nature lovers has emerged from the Galapagos Islands. Tortoise hatchlings observed by researchers on the island of Pinzon last year are the first to have survived there for over a century. This is a staggering statement and requires some explanation.

The island’s native wildlife, like that of many of the Galapagos Islands, has been devastated by the accidental introduction of rats from pirate and whaling ships in the 18th century. They preyed on bird’s eggs and especially Galapagos tortoise hatchlings. So successfully in the case of the latter that none survived. The island’s native tortoise population dwindled to around 100 adults, supplemented by others from different islands, and given the fact that the average life expectancy is about 100 years, it became imperative that something be done.


The first attempt to wipe out the invasive black rats in 1988 was unsuccessful. However, by 2012 a joint project between the Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos National Park Directorate, Galapagos Conservancy and Island Conservation successfully eradicated black rats from Pinzon. Just 2 years later, researchers carrying out a follow up survey on the island witnessed the first giant tortoise hatchlings on the island for over 100 years.


This is just one strand of the ongoing conservation efforts in the Galapagos, to protect these unique and vulnerable species so that they survive, and thrive, into the future.  For example, on 25th February this year 159 tortoises hatched at the Isabela Island Breeding Centre. They’ll spend their first 6 years under surveillance, by which time they’ll be beyond the vulnerable juvenile stage and will be ready to be released to supplement the wild population. And it’s not just tortoises. Conservationists constantly monitor all species and the precious Galapagos environments.

This dedication is one reason why the Galapagos is widely regarded as one of the most special wildlife havens on earth. Indeed, in February the Galapagos Islands were voted ‘Best Place for Wildlife’ by USA Today and 10Best readers and is currently the subject for the BBC’s new wildlife programme, ‘Galapagos – Islands of Change’ narrated by David Attenborough. Why not go and see for yourself! We’ve a wide choice of vessels, hotels on different islands, and expert consultants eager to help you plan your holiday just a phone call or email away.