In over a century, baby tortoises have been discovered on the Galapagos Island

A small group of younglings have recently been spotted after over a century without a single baby tortoise sighting on the Galapagos island of Pinzón.

In the Galapagos, tortoises have been considered one of the most endangered animals.

But thanks to new research, it has been suggested that there are now over 500 estimated to be currently living on the island after a massive conservation and re-population effort has been proven successful.

There have been at least 300 tortoises spotted and they were first seen by James Gibbs, a researcher, back in December.

Image via flickr

At least 10 were hatchlings, according to Gibbs.

He shared with The Dodo:

“I’m amazed that the tortoises gave us the opportunity to make up for our mistakes after so long.”

The recent births are aiding in pulling the endangered animals back from the brink of extinction after they were almost gone due to human activity.

When sailors first landed on Pinzón Island in the mid-18th century, they came on ships which carried rats.

The rodents arrived to the islands via vessels and soon trumped the fragile ecosystem, according to records, and started to eat on the eggs as well as hatchlings of the island’s tortoises.

Image via flickr

And up until that point, tortoises had minimal natural predators.

The rat invasion that was driven by humans left such a dent in the tortoise population that the following decade, not one single tortoise offspring survived which set the species up for extinction.

But in the 1960s, conservation efforts developed when the tortoise population dwindled to less than 100.

On a nearby island, the conservationists discovered a few unhatched eggs which were collected and incubated.

Image via Pixino

The tortoises were then hatched and raised for five years until they were big enough not to be attacked by rats prior to being released back on Pinzón but the rats continued to live.

Then, biologists in 2012 used helicopters to distribute poison that was designed to kill the rats and it worked.

Pinzón was officially, rat-free.

Gibbs shared:

“The incredible eradication of rats on this island, done by the park service and others, has created the opportunity for the tortoises to breed for the first time.”

But rats haven’t been the tortoises only predator as of late.

Smugglers have also been noted to be a problem when it comes to the ploughshare tortoise from Madagascar.

The species is considered one of the rarest tortoises on Earth and experts are certain that only a few hundred still exist.

Their rarity, along with their golden shell, has put a high price on their head.

Image via flickr

“Turtles and tortoises are arguably the most threatened group of animals on the planet,” says the founder of the Turtle Conservancy, Eric Goode. “Out of the 330 species of turtles and tortoises, over half of them are threatened with extinction.”

So to help combat this, conservationists carve letters and numbers into the tortoises’ shells to make them less desirable to poachers.

“In Southeast Asia in particular, the newfound wealth in the middle class enables people to now buy animals and keep them as status symbols,” Goode says. “This is happening in China, in Indonesia.”

In an effort to help save this species, conservationists want to make its shell, or, its most attractive feature, less desirable to poachers and wealthy collectors, Goode shares.

Image via flickr

Each tortoise has a unique identifier with the use of four large numbers as well as two block letters that shares where the tortoise originated and where it was found.

The engraving is a way to protect the animals not just in captive breeding but also on the few hundred remaining in the wild.

And while shells wear down as part of the aging process and the engraving does not appear to be painful for the tortoise, Gibbons says the long-term effects are yet to be known.

“We are balancing some harm with the benefit to the species and the individual,” Gibbons says.

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