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article imageEcuador releases 201 tortoises to repopulate the Galapagos

By Caroline Leopold     Jun 29, 2015 in Environment
Quito - Ecuador released hundreds of giant tortoises raised in captivity onto an island of the Galapagos. The goal is to restore giant tortoises and to conserve the archipelago's biodiversity.
Ecuador released 201 giant tortoises onto Sante Fe Island in the Galapagos archipelago on Saturday. The goal is to repopulate the island with large turtles, where a similar type of tortoise had gone extinct over 150 years ago, Agence France-Presse reports.
The original giant tortoises of Santa Fe died off after 18th century pirates and buccaneers had hurt the island's ecosystem and killed the turtles for food and a source of oil.
The released tortoises are members of the Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies, which is similar in shape, size and genetics as the extinct tortoise. Rangers from Galapagos National Park hailed the repopulation of the island's tortoises as a "conservation milestone" to bring "ecological restoration of the archipelago."
The Galapagos archipelago is located about 605 miles off the Ecuadoran coast. Santa Fe is among the archipelago's larger islands with an area of about 9 square miles.
A subset of the tortoises were outfitted with radio transmitters in order for park rangers to track their movements. The project will examine how the new tortoises affect the ecosystem and how they will coexist with the 6,500 iguanas on the island, Danny Rueda, director of the Park said.
The Galapagos Islands were made famous by Charles Darwin's studies on the archipelago help him develop his theory of evolution. The archipelago has great biodiversity and its isolation was a major factor in allowing the tortoises to become so gigantic.
The reintroduction of tortoises to the Galapagos has brought giant tortoises to near extinction to successfully reproducing in the wild.
Three of the tortoise subspecies that experts believe once lived on the Galapagos Islands have become extinct. The most recent subspecies to become extinct, was when a century-old tortoise, known as Lonesome George, died in his pen in the Galapagos National Park in 2012.
The relatively young tortoises, ages four to 10 years old, cannot replace their ancestors, but they offer hope in restoring the precious Galapagos ecosystem.
More about Galapagos, Galapagos Giant Tortoise, Giant tortoise, Santa Fe Island, Ecuador
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