Quirks & Quarks

Slow and Steady Tortoise de-Extinction

A subspecies of giant tortoise from the Galapagos has been rescued from the brink of extinction....

A subspecies of giant tortoise from the Galapagos has been rescued from the brink of extinction.In the late 1960's, only fifteen giant tortoises survived of the island of Espanola in the Galapagos, down from a historical population that numbered perhaps more than 10,000. Predation by sailors and fishermen, and competition with goats that had been introduced to the island, drove their decline, until the animals were considered functionally extinct - too few to even find each other to breed. The remaining tortoises were taken into captivity, the goats eliminated, and a long project of breeding and reintroduction began. Now, forty years later, Dr. James Gibbs, professor of Conservation Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, and his colleagues, are declaring the job done. The island now supports a sustainable population of animals, though full ecosystem recovery will likely take centuries.

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