Land of Giants
Which animal is best known on the islands? It’s the giant tortoise. In Darwin’s time, there were 15 species. Today, there are only 11.
Many tortoises were killed by sailors and whalers. They ate the tortoises. Tortoises were also exploited for their fat. It was used in lamps. About 200,000 tortoises were killed for these reasons.
In 1959, the Galápagos National Park was created. A foundation in honor of Charles Darwin was formed. It opened centers where tortoises could be bred.
Now, tortoises can be raised in a safe place. When they hatch from their eggs, they are very small. They need to be protected.
As they grow, they learn to find food. When they are old enough, they are returned to their islands. So far, more than 7,000 young tortoises have been raised at the centers. Their numbers continue to grow!
No one had seen a Pinta Island tortoise since 1906. Was it extinct? Then in 1971, a scientist saw one. That was Lonesome George. George was moved to a research station.
George lived there for 40 years. He was about 100 when he died. With the loss of George, the Pinta Island tortoise became extinct.