I’ve had a request for a post on the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos. Linda, this one’s for you!
Galapagos actually means tortoises so these big fellows are responsible for the very name of the islands they live on. And they are indeed big, weighing in at up to about 880 lbs. with shells nearly 6 feet in length. They often live over 100 years. To me, they looked liked dinosaurs with shells.
Doesn’t he remind you of a brontosaurus?
The Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz has a very successful breeding program which has repopulated most of the islands with the seven surviving subspecies of tortoises. Here are some of the young ‘uns waiting to be released into the wild.
The Galapagos tortoises nearly went extinct because us humans took advantage of their lack of fear and their slow speeds to use them for food supplies on ships. The tortoises could live a year without food or water so they remained fresh and ready to eat. Not a pretty thought about how we treat our fellow creatures.
The breeding programs have been very successful, except for poor Lonesome George, the last of his subspecies.
He looks very sad, doesn’t he? However, the truth is that he now shares his pen with four lusty females whose DNA is very similar to his, so they are hoping he will pass it along to some offspring soon. Of course, he will still be the last pure-blood of his kind.
You will probably be able to figure out what this fellow is up to.
We could hear him long before he saw him. Evidently, tortoises are almost entirely mute except for when they mate. Then the male is quite vocal, emitting loud grunting noises. The sound of the two shells pounding together is pretty impressive too.
Aside from the Charles Darwin Research Station, the giant tortoises wander about in the wild. Here’s one fellow just hanging out in a meadow with an admiring audience.
I was quite surprised to discover that they graze just like a horse or cow, ripping up the grass with their mouths.
We came upon this big guy in the woods.
When all that bulk moves through the trees, it sounds like a bit like an elephant as branches crack and bushes get crushed beneath the tortoise’s great weight.
Their shells come in all sorts of different shapes, although the two major divisions are saddleback and domed. However, there are many variations in between. Here are a few samples.
Finally, here’s my favorite tort, giving me the evil eye.
Not cute and cuddly like the sea lions, but quite impressive for their sheer mass.