Finally, some great news after more than a hundred years without seeing a single baby tortoise on the Galápagos island of Pinzón. Ten new hatchlings have been spotted, and this thanks to a rat eradication program that was launched on the island in 2012, according to International Business Times.
Black and brown rats were introduced to Duncan Island before 1900, supposedly by pirate and whaling ships, which lead to the fall of tortoise population on the island, also known as Pinzón Island. But in 2012, National Park authorities began a rodent eradication program, dropping poison at sites where the rats populated. They also temporarily captured hawks from the island to prevent them from eating the poisoned dead rats.
In 1965, the Galápagos National Park started a breeding program for the tortoises, releasing 837 tortoises into the wild, with a 75 % survival rate. Hopefully, this program will no longer be needed now that the tortoises are breeding naturally again.
Talking for the great news, researcher James Gibbs said:
I’m amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long. We did a survey [in December] to see if it was working for the tortoises, and we found 10 new hatchlings. This is the first time they’ve bred in the wild in more than a century.
The incredible eradication of rats on this island, done by the park service and others, has created the opportunity for the tortoises to breed for the first time.
The Gálapagos tortoises have been considered among the most endangered animals of the Gálapagos, and currently, have a population of about 19,000. In comparison with the 1960’s population, which was about 3000 tortoises, is quite high, however, is still drastically lower than the 16th century, during which there is estimated to have been as high as 250,000 tortoises.