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.
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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