After 40 years Giant Tortoise makes population recovery on island of Espanola

The Giant Tortoise is making a comeback. At one time, there were 15 remaining Giant Tortoises on the island of Espanola. Espanola is one of the islands within the Galapagos island chain. That being said, it took 40 years of careful work to slowly rehabilitate the population, and get populations back to what scientists are calling a stable breeding population.

Extinction was actually a likely possibility during the 1960’s on Espanola, but after years of releasing, and considerable conservation work the original number of 3 male tortoises and 12 female tortoises, has been improved enough to allow those conservationists, and scientists to “step back out of the picture,” as Professor James Gibbs of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York said.


The giant tortoises weigh as much as 250kg and have lifespans of more than 100 years. In fact, those studying the island found that many of the tortoises that were released on the island in earlier years were still roaming and reproducing on the island. Which is an obviously good sign for things to come. The program that slowly repopulated the island with these tortoises was started by the Galapagos Islands National Park Service in 1973.

How they became so devastated wasn’t all to do with the actions of people. In fact, feral goats were the real culprits of the initial demise that took place on the tortoise population. Feral goats, which were introduced in the 1800’s reduced the islands vegetation to rubble.

Studies found that the goats consumed so much of the vegetation that is vital to the existence of the tortoise that in many ways the tortoises just didn’t have a chance.

Those in the region found that the goats even got to the tallest cactus on the island as well. Something, the tortoises, rely heavily on during the dry season. The goats were eradicated in the 1990’s and ultimately paved the way for the rest of the rehab process to take place within the tortoise community.

However, as all parties involved agreed, solutions to problems like these do not happen overnight. In fact, oftentimes, solutions take 10, 20, or even 30 years due to the ecosystem that has to be rehabilitated with the animals involved. Now though, this particular recovery can be called a success, and one that can be marveled at for the long term management, and planning that went into setting this up, and executing from start to finish.