Ecuador re­leases tor­toises on Galapagos is­land

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ecuador has re­leased 201 tor­toises on Santa Fe Is­land in the Galapagos ar­chi­pel­ago, where a sim­i­lar sub­species went ex­tinct more than 150 years ago.

Santa Fe is the for­mer home to Ch­elonoidis sp, a sub­species of gi­ant tor­toise which died out af­ter hu­mans took a hefty toll on the ecosys­tem, be­gin­ning in the 18th cen­tury when pi­rates and buc­ca­neers dec­i­mated the pop­u­la­tion.

“We re­leased in Santa Fe 201 tor­toises from the Ch­elonoidis hood­en­sis sub­species, which are from Es­panola Is­land, and which have mor­pho­log­i­cal and ge­netic sim­i­lar­i­ties to the ex­tinct sub­species on the (Santa Fe) is­land,” rangers from Galapagos Na­tional Park said.

The 201 tor­toises, which were re­leased Satur­day, were raised in cap­tiv­ity and are be­tween four and 10 years old.

Of these, 30 have a ra­dio trans­mit­ter that will al­low park rangers to fol­low the an­i­mals in the wild.

The park ser­vice de­scribed re­pop­u­lat­ing the is­land with tor­toises as “a con­ser­va­tion mile­stone” and said it sig­ni­fied a “new method­ol­ogy for eco­log­i­cal restora­tion of the ar­chi­pel­ago,” which is lo­cated 1,000 kilo­me­ters (620 miles) off the Ecuado­ran coast.

The pro­ject will also study the changes that oc­cur in the ecosys­tem with the tor­toises and an­i­mal’s co­ex­is­tence with the ap­prox­i­mately 6,500 land igua­nas that live on the is­land, ac­cord­ing to Danny Rueda, di­rec­tor of Galapagos Na­tional Park.

Ex­perts be­lieve 14 sub­species of tor­toises have lived on the Galapagos Is­lands, of which three — in­clud­ing Ch­elonoidis sp — are ex­tinct.

The last mem­ber of the ex­tinct Ch­elonoidis abig­doni sub­species, a tor­toise known as “Lone­some Ge­orge,” died three years ago.

The Galapagos Is­lands are a UNESCO World Her­itage Site and are known for their unique flora and fauna.

The Pa­cific ar­chi­pel­ago was made fa­mous by Charles Dar­win’s stud­ies of its breath­tak­ing bio­di­ver­sity, which was cru­cial in his de­vel­op­ment of the the­ory of evo­lu­tion by nat­u­ral se­lec­tion.

Santa Fe Is­land, which is lo­cated in the cen­ter of the ar­chi­pel­ago, has an area of 24.7 square kilo­me­ters (9.5 square miles).

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