by John R. Platt
Now here’s a great conservation success story: After more than 100 years, Galápagos giant tortoise hatchlings finally have a chance to thrive and survive on their native Pinzón Island, after conservationists cleared it of the invasive rats that nearly wiped out the animals.
Like most Galápagos giant tortoises—including the conservation icon Lonesome George, who died last year—the tortuga subspecies that once lived on Pinzón Island were nearly wiped out by the arrival of pirates, fishermen and invasive species in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this case, the greatest threat to the Pinzón Island tortoise subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra duncanensis) came in the form of voracious black rats (Rattus rattus) and Norway rats (R. norvegicus), which ate both the tortoises’ eggs and their defenseless hatchlings.
Older tortoises can defend themselves against rats but so many young animals were killed by rodents that the subspecies could not replenish its population as older animals died off. By the beginning of the twentieth century, it appeared that no young tortoises on the island were surviving until adulthood…
(read more: Scientific American)
Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein (via Animal pictures of the week: 29 March 2013 - Telegraph)