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Old 01-22-2013, 08:53 AM   #226
RexBuck OP
Studly Adventurer
 
Joined: May 2010
Location: Interior BC, Canada
Oddometer: 980
Jan 5 12 Galapagos and shelled animals

Get up early and fly to the islands. We had booked for 7 nights on the Galapagos Voyager. Boat was great and the remaining 11 passengers were even better. Had an interesting, international group: 4 Germans, 1 Swede, 2 New Zealanders, 1 New Yorker, 3 Texans and of course, 2 Canadians. Crew of 8 plus our Naturalist Guide.




With no more than 80 or so tourboats permitted in the islands and with the National Park limiting the number of boat visits to each Island and bay, the Ecuadorans have done a good job of protecting the very unique species found there.

Starting less than 5 millions of years ago, volcanic activity started to build these islands what is now some 500 miles from shore. Since the islands are 500 or so miles from shore, many animals and plants have made their way here over many thousands of years and adapted (evolved) into unique species found only here, and in some cases only on one of the many islands.

A guy named Chuck Darwin made the islands famous less than 200 years ago as the unique species he observed helped build the foundation for a couple of books he wrote. The guides prefer to call it Adaptation rather than Evolution to avoid the religious discussion but it is a very unique and interesting place.

Tortoises and turtles

Once we got off the plane, the first Island we were seeing stuff was Santa Cruz where we visited the Giant Tortoise Reserve.





Mrs RB showing off her stylin rubber boots they give you to wander around the fields while observing the big Tortoises





I think these birds will eventually discover there are faster forms of transportation





"My God!" is that thing alive . . . big animals process large quantities of groceries





The Darwin breeding station is also located on this island where they breed the Tortoises for release after they are 5 7 years old. This project is helping to re-establish the Tortoise herd.

We later visited Isabela Island where there is a second breeding station devoted to species of the Giant Tortoise specifically to that island. Some species of Tortoise have disappeared on this island and others are near extinction resulting from predatory actions by man, feral cats, rats and dogs along with consumption of available feed by feral rabbits. Even without all the extra predatory problems tortoises have a very low survival rate. The breeding station is producing enough tortoises of survivable size to reestablish the remaining species.





We were admiring this bunch of mature tortoises. You can tell the one with his back to us is a male as he has a big tail. The tail is where he keeps his junk . . . delicately known as his body parts responsible for propagation of the species.





Next thing we know, he has wandered over to this group of Tortoises and climbs aboard this other Tortoise. The female will try to get away but once he gets his tail in action and gets himself situated aboard, she just giving him a ride around. They will apparently do this dance for 7 or more hours. Not sure if she drags him by the fridge so he can at least grab a beer or two on the way by would seem the considerate thing to do.






Lots of sea turtles with somewhat the same problem as the tortoises low survival rate coupled with predators making it tough on the population. The females were laying eggs at this time of year and it seemed like every time we turned around there was a couple of turtles floating by playing wheelbarrow.






Apparently the females dont have many morals and take on more than one male to, um . . . mix things up. They then crawl up on the beach a number of times over a few months to dig a number of nests and lay a few eggs in each. The dark marks in the water just past the surf are females waiting for dark so they can come ashore and dig a nest.





What looks like tractor tracks in the sand is the marks of the females paddling themselves up the beach. The depressions in the sand are their nests.






Of course, when the little guys pop out of the sand its chow time for any meat-eater in the area. Although one female will deposit at least 500 eggs over the season, she will be lucky to see one of her young reach adult size for every two or three years of her reproductive efforts.
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