Galapagos giant tortoises stage a comeback

An endangered population of giant tortoises has recovered on a Galapagos island.
A population of endangered giant tortoises on the Galapagos island of Española, which had dwindled to just 15, has recovered to around 1,000 – "a true story of success and hope in conservation", according to the lead author of a study into the animals.

It took the captive-bred tortoises 40 years to begin reproducing after they were reintroduced to the island by the Galapagos National Park Service.

At the same time as their reintroduction, the authorities began restoring some of the ecological damage caused by feral goats that were brought to the island in the late 19th century – although that work still has some distance to go.

"The population is secure. It's a rare example of how biologists and managers can collaborate to recover a species from the brink of extinction, " said James P. Gibbs, a professor of vertebrate conservation biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and lead author of the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

But the tortoises have probably reached their population limits for now, until more of the landscape recovers from the damage inflicted by the now-eradicated goats.

"Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer," Gibbs said.

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