Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Galapagos Tortoises Rebound

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Galapagos Tortoises Rebound

Article excerpt

A population of endangered giant tortoises, which once dwindled to just over a dozen, has recovered on the Galapagos island of Espanola, a finding described as "a true story of success and hope in conservation" by the lead author of a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Some 40 years after the first captive-bred tortoises were reintroduced to the island by the Galapagos National Park Service, the endemic Espanola giant tortoises are reproducing and restoring some of the ecological damage caused by feral goats that were brought to the island in the late 19th century.

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"The global population was down to just 15 tortoises by the 1960s," says James P. Gibbs, a biology professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and lead author of the paper. "Now there are some 1,000 tortoises breeding on their own. The population is secure. It's a rare example of how biologists and managers can collaborate to recover a species from the brink of extinction."

Gibbs and his collaborators assessed the tortoise population using 40 years of data from tortoises marked and recaptured repeatedly for measurement and monitoring by members of the park service, Charles Darwin Foundation, and visiting scientists.

But there is another side to the success story: While the tortoise population is stable, it is not likely to increase until more of the landscape recovers from the damage inflicted by the now-eradicated goats. …

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