Biology scientists at Flinders University are part of exciting plans to reintroduce ‘extinct in the wild’ species of the giant tortoise to the Galápagos Islands, located 1000km off the coast of South America.
Throughout history, pirates and whalers have fed on the animals and introduced pest species like goats to the islands, destroying the tortoises’ habitat. The Giant Tortise Restoration Initiative aims to turn back the clock to before human beings all but wiped out the species – by breeding them in captivity.
The breeding colony originally comprised 12 females and 3 males. Meanwhile, conservationists cleared the islands of goats. Baby tortoises were hand-reared until they were about 5 years old before being taken to back in batches. Since its inception, over 1700 tortoises have been reintroduced.
Over the next ten years, the project will continue to reintroduce tortoise populations through a combination of in situ management, breeding and rearing tortoises where appropriate, and repopulation of an island where tortoises are extinct through the use of closely-related species. The project will evaluate and restore habitat conditions, as well as improve education in service of giant tortoise conservation.
The success of the rescue mission so far raises conservation hopes for other wildlife.
Read more here: Flinders University.