WHAT'S NEW IN Galápagos
Highlights and news, from the Islands
We bring you recent news from the Galápagos Islands. Like all places on the planet, the Galápagos is in constant change and undergoing continual challenges. INCA strives to provide the most ecologically-friendly Galápagos travel experience for our guests, as we have since 1976.
Repopulating Pinta with Tortoises:
A historic event this May, 29 years in the making.
NBC's "The Today Show" segment
39 tortoises released on Pinta, the first since Lonesome George left
A reporting team led by NBC Correspondent George Lewis was in Galápagos in late May filming a segment on the historic release of Galápagos tortoises onto Pinta Island. The segment, shown on The Today Show, can be seen by clicking the link below.
NBC Today Show segment on the re-tortoising of Pinta Island (opens in a new window)
Preparing to carry a tortoise to the highlands of Pinta, some kilometers away. (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos)
Retortoise Pinta Blog
Keep up with the Repopulation of Pinta with regular updates from the field: http://retortoisepinta.blogspot.com/ (will open a new window).
Visit Galápagos with Dr. Linda Cayot, herpetologist and participant in the Pinta Tortoise Project!
Visit Galápagos with Dr. Linda Cayot on a special INCA & Galápagos Conservancy Adventure! Lead by Linda and expert guide Richard Polatty, you will be treated their expertise as well as to an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Charles Darwin Research Station with researchers and Park personnel. August 2010, July 2011, July 2012.
Reintroduction of Giant Tortoises to Pinta Island
On Monday May 17, the Galápagos National Park released on Pinta island a group of 39 hybrid turtles that have lived in captivity for over 40 years, to fulfill the role of herbivore and return to the island ecological system to natural balance.
This will be the first time that giant tortoises will live on the island since 1972, when Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta subspecies, was removed from Pinta to the Charles Darwin on Santa Cruz Island, where he lives today.
Pinta Island suffered great environmental degradation by feral goats, the population of which rose from three goats in 1959 to 40,000 by the turn of the century. In 2003, the Galápagos National Park eradicated goats on Pinta and the vegetation recovered quickly, but the complete and balanced restoration of the ecosystem requires the presence of the tortoises. The tortoises are considered prime "ecosystem engineers" because of their eating habits and patterns movement, which create open spaces and help to disperse seeds of native plants.
"By returning tortoises to Pinta, we reestablish a population of habitat engineers, the natural habitat engineers of Galápagos" said Dr. Linda Cayot, a Galápagos Conservancy science advisor and former Head of Science at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Station. ( Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos)
It is impossible to repopulate Pinta Island with its original species of tortoise (Geochelone abigdoni) because, despite all efforts, Lonesome George has not mated successfully. It was decided to release hybrid of unknown origin, kept in the breeding centers in Santa Cruz and Floreana.
These mature tortoises, which weigh between 40 and 100 kilos and are between 30 and 70 years old, were sterilized to prevent crossbreeding and to preserve the ecological and evolutionary processes of the archipelago.
The sterilization was performed in November 2009 by a group of veterinarians from the United States, led by Drs Steve Divers of the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Sam Rivera Zoo Atlanta, and Joe Flanagan of the Houston Zoo,with technicians from Galápagos National Park.
Afterwards, the tortoises were kept in quarantine, where their health was constantly monitored and their elimination analyzed to ensure that seeds were not ingested that could later be introduced to Pinta. Additionally, they were fitted with satellite tags so that scientists can monitor their movements on Pinta.
30 Park rangers and graduate students were quarantined as well, in preparation for their role in the tortoise project on Pinta. When all was ready, the tortoises and people were loaded onto a research vessel at Santa Cruz Island. After nine hours of travel, the tortoises were unloaded, one by one, onto Puerto Posada, a yellow sand beach. Pairs of rangers then carried the tortoises to the top of the island, several kilometers inland.
The reptiles were transported from Santa Cruz to the island Pinta and then carried by the rangers and scientists to the top of this island which has the right habitat for the tortoises. Their movements, habitat use and adaptation will be monitored for 10 weeks by graduate students from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and
Galápagos Marine Iguanas Eavesdrop
Nonverbal iguanas listen in on mockingbirds
Why would a non-verbal species be curious about the conversations of others? And why the languid, almost torpid Galápagos marine iguana? Scientists have found that eavesdropping on the communication of other species can be quite helpful for avoiding predators. While the Galápagos has few predators, most notably missing Man, marine iguanas are often prey for the Galápagos Hawk.
Marine iguanas on Santiago Island, where Galápagos Hawks are regularly seen. (Nicole Churchill)
The ability to recognize and respond to the alarm calls of other species has previously been described only in species with vocal communication. In 2007, scientists found evidence that a non-vocal reptile, the Galápagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), can eavesdrop on the alarm call of the Galápagos mockingbird (Nesomimus parvulus) and respond with anti-predator behavior. Eavesdropping on complex communications of other species demonstrates a remarkable degree of auditory discrimination in a non-vocal species.
So the next time you're in Galápagos, watch those iguanas--they may be listening to the mockingbirds!
The full scientific article from Biology Letters of the Royal Society (will open in a new window) "Heterospecific alarm call recognition in a non-vocal reptile" by Maren N Vitousek, James S Adelman, Nathan C Gregory and James J. H. St Clair
They're Not Alone
Just recently, iguanas in Madagascar were found to also posses this trait, leading researchers to conclude that it's likely widespread among iguanas.
New York Times article (will open in a new window).
The full scientific article from Proceedings of the Royal Society B (will open in a new window). "Vigilance against predators induced by eavesdropping on heterospecific alarm calls in a non-vocal lizard Oplurus cuvieri cuvieri (Reptilia: Iguania)" Ryo Ito and
Fall Prices for Galápagos
Special Fall pricing on all Galápagos Integrity adventures
Leaves will be falling this autumn, but long before then our prices are falling for our Integrity Galápagos Adventures.
The owner of the Galápagos yacht Integrity has created a Fall Season rate for all departures September through mid-December 2010.
Just click on the trip of your choice in the left sidebar to view the Fall rates.