First tortoise babies found on Galapagos Islands in more than 100 years

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First Tortoise Babies Found On Galapagos Island In More Than 100 Years

Researchers on the Galapagos Island of Pinzón discovered baby tortoise hatchlings born on the island for first time in more than a century.

The tortoise team found evidence of new babies showing promise for the critically endangered animals. The team estimates only 500 or so live on Pinzón.

Dr. James Gibbs, Environmental researcher for the tortoise population survey, said "The team found many young hatchlings, a truly exciting find as they are the first hatchlings to survive on Pinzón in more than a century. Once black rats were introduced to Pinzón in the late 1800s, they preyed on 100 percent of tortoise hatchlings."

Tortoise's were hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and merchantmen during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. During that time, the black rat was introduced and is currently among the most serious threats to Galapagos biodiversity.

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First tortoise babies found on Galapagos Islands in more than 100 years
In this photo taken Dec. 9 , 2012, young tortoises pause on trail at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Bred in captivity, the tortoises are part of a breeding and repatriation program that will eventually be released into the wild. The program was created in the 1960's in response to dramatic reductions in the tortoise population due to arrival of humans to the islands. The breeding center now hosts more than 1,000 tortoises from the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, Pinz€n, and Espanola. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Two Galapagos tortoises dig into Halloween treats during an enrichment program at the Oklahoma City Zoo, in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
IIn this photo taken Dec. 9 , 2012, a staffer points to tortoise eggs at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Bred in captivity, the tortoises are part of a breeding and repatriation program that will eventually be released into the wild. The program was created in the 1960's in response to dramatic reductions in the tortoise population due to arrival of humans to the islands. The breeding center now hosts more than 1,000 tortoises from the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, Pinz€n, and Espanola. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
A giant land turtle walks in Galapagos National Park in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador, May 8, 2009. In 1965 the Charles Darwin Research Station started a program to raise and repatriate giant tortoises to protect them. Ecuador included the Galapagos, an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, on a list of natural patrimonies that are in danger due to damage caused by invading species and tourism. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Das 50. Jungtier, links, der Galapagos-Riesenschildkroete im Zuercher Zoo und ein erwachsenenes Exemplar, sehen sich an, am Mittwoch 21. Juli 2004 beim "Zoo-Apero". Der Zoo Zuerich ist in der Alten Welt noch immer die einzige Institution, in welcher sich die vom Aussterben bedrohte Galapagos Riesenschildkroete fortplanzt. In diesem Jahr sind aus einem Gelege von sieben Eiern bisher drei Tiere geschluepft. (AP Photo/Keystone/Walter Bieri) ---- A newborn Giant Galapagos tortoise, left, is shown in the Zurich zoo while an adult animal is next, Wednesday July 21, 2004. The Giant Galapagos turtle is an endangered species. (AP Photo/Keystone/Walter Bieri)
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Gibb's says these hatchlings are proof the campaign to eliminate black rats on Pinzón is working.
The Galapagos National Park was established in 1959. There are 13 major islands and 7 smaller islands that make up the archipelago. Hundreds of thousands of tortoise's once inhabited the Galapagos but only about 15 thousand remain.

The Galapagos is home to the largest type of Giant tortoise -- with some species exceeding 5 feet and weighing more than 550 pounds. The endangered reptile lives an average of more than 100 years -- and the oldest one on record lived to be 152.

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