raising tortoises

To help rebuild tortoise populations in the wild, some are first 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 that mimic 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. These protect them from predators. They learn to forage on their own. 


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

Keeping the Peace

Another significant conservation goal is to prevent human‑tortoise conflicts. 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 know and value the treasure they have in the giant tortoises. They know it is crucial to protect and preserve.


One of National Geographic’s goals is to help protect Earth’s wild places. How did the stories make you feel about the Galápagos Islands? Do you think it is important to protect them?