Raising Tortoises

In order to increase the numbers of tortoises, some are raised in captivity. Here’s how it works:


In the wild, female tortoises lay their eggs in nest holes and cover them with sand. When scientists find the buried eggs, they bring them to a rearing center.


Each egg is labeled, weighed, and registered. They are kept in dark boxes to simulate their natural nests. They take 120 days to hatch.


It can take up to five days for a hatchling to break free from its egg. Hatchlings feed on their yolk sac for 30 more days.


For about two years, young tortoises are kept in special pens that protect them from predators. They are fed a healthy diet and slowly learn to forage on their own.


When they are five years old, or roughly the size of a dinner plate, they are old enough to fend for themselves. They are then released to the wild.

Keeping the Peace

Another conservation goal is to prevent human‑tortoise conflicts. As populations of both humans and giant tortoises rise, the two will come in greater contact with each other. The three main inhabited islands—Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela—have already seen conflicts.

On Santa Cruz, for example, tortoises have been arriving at the edges of the city of Puerto Ayora. Some tortoises have eaten plastics; others have been hit by cars; and at least one was attacked by stray dogs.

A baby tortoise crawls across a leaf.

The people of the Galápagos now know and value the treasure they have in the giant tortoises. They see them as important to protect and preserve.


One of National Geographic’s goals is to help protect earth’s wild places. After you have finished reading this issue, have a class discussion. How did the stories make you feel about the Galápagos Islands? Do you think it is important to protect them?