These very creatures were once so abundant that the Galapagos Islands were named after them. Now they’re on the endangered species list. Some of their subspecies are already gone forever.
Nigrita, an 80-year-old tortoise, is part of the breeding program at Zoo Zürich in Switzerland, the only program to have successfully bred Galapagos in captivity in Europe. This brave first-time mom is helping her species to have a future, by welcoming almost a dozen new little hatchlings to the world.
Galapagos Tortoises have no natural predators. They can live for a year without food or drink. I’m confused; why are they endangered? Because of human exploitation and the introduction of non-native predators to the islands. The tortoise’s ability to live without resources made them fresh meat for sailors who were on long journeys at sea harvesting other animals for their fur, meat, and oil.
When Darwin visited the Galapagos, there were 15 subspecies of Galapagos tortoises. Now there are 11. On the brink of extinction, some subspecies still remain by virtue of their long lifespan of 100 plus years. Older members of the species in breeding programs in captivity are the hope of growing the ranks. Nigrita here, is still in her reproductive prime at 80 years old. Her 9 hatchlings are a small step towards replenishing this vulnerable species.