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Nature & Wildlife
One of the most famous inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands, the Galapagos giant tortoise has been much studied since the time of Darwin and can be spotted on a number of islands or at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora. They seem to be very photogenic, with an endearing or even comical nature. Much exploited in the past, several unique species have gone extinct while others are decidedly vulnerable despite any rebound in their population size.
With wild individuals thought to live beyond a century in age, they are among the longest lived vertebrate animals on the planet. Recent studies have shown them to have surprising intellectual abilities and it is to be seen how we might decipher their communicative powers. They have no natural predators, making them a little less apprehensive than tortoise species elsewhere. They are the world's largest tortoise species, each island community bears their own shell shape, owing to foraging ecospheres local to each population. Look for the high "saddle" of shrub foraging populations versus rounded shells of lower foraging species, for example.
You'll have to fly onto Baltra and Seymour Airport (GPS) to get onto the Galapagos Islands, from there you can either head south and onto the Charles Darwin Research Station or onward to a cruise itinerary and select island populations of wild tortoises.
Selecting a cruise itinerary
Tortoise populations vary in size and different species may have habits which make them more or less difficult to observe. There are populations of the Galapagos giant tortoise on Espanola Island, Isabela Island, Pinzon, and Santa Cruz Island. The populations of Espanola and Pinzon owe their continued success to extensive conservation efforts.
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