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Galapagos Islands giant tortoise


Galapagos giant tortoise

Life Cycle: The female tortoise digs a hole in the ground and lays up to 20 leathery eggs each the size of a tennis ball. She then covers the nest and leaves.

The eggs take 4-8 months to hatch and the young tortoises then have to fend for themselves.

They take 20 to 30 years to reach maturity and can reach up to 500 Pounds in weight.They feed on a wide variety of plants such as cactuses and fruit. A Galapagos Tortoise may live as long as 200 years.

Threats: From the moment man discovered them, the future of the giant tortoises of Galapagos was in question. First the Spanish sailors caught them and ate them. Then successive waves of pirates used them as a source of food. A prison colony was set up on the islands and further stocks of tortoises were taken. The tortoises could live for a long time without water, so they were kept alive on the ships and given water only a short time before they were due to be eaten. Whalers were the next in line, and they too killed large numbers. The tortoises were killed and used a source of oil.

As all these different human invaders came and went, they left behind them a whole new set of animals that had been deliberately or accidentally introduced; dogs, cats, rats, pigs and goats etc. Many of the new inhabitants of the island affect the tortoise either by eating their eggs or destroying the vegetation eaten by the giant reptiles. There were originally fifteen different races of Galapagos giant tortoise each evolved to suit the conditions on the different islands. Four of the races are now extinct and one, the Pinta race, only has one male left.

The Galapagos giant tortoise is now strictly protected. Young tortoises are being raised in a programme by the Charles Darwin Research Station in order to help keep the remaining races from becoming extinct. Eggs are collected from places on the islands where they are threatened and when the young tortoises hatch they are kept in captivity until they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Galapagos Islands reptiles, giant tortoise
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