Visiting Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

Tortoise Breeding Center

The sign for the Tortoise Breeding Center.   While at the center we came across this nice wooden sign for the Galápagos National Park.

We dinghied ashore later and walked over to the Tortoise Breeding Center to check it out. It was an interesting 1.2-km walk to the center since the trail passed through several Galápagos habitats including mangroves, salt pans, the arid zone, and a mixed woodland of shrubs and gnarled trees. We saw many birds, including flamingos, water birds, land birds, and the ever-popular blurry bird. We saw dragonflies the same place I photographed them yesterday but they were too active and Marcie couldn't get a good shot.

The tortoise breeding center itself was very orderly and neat. Altogether there were dozens of tortoises all separated by age/size. Large tortoises were in spacious corrals like at the Darwin Center but small tortoises were kept in shallow elevated cages. It was interesting to see how small they were when young—palm-sized—and they grow to be as big as easy chairs. It was feeding day and they were munching on green stalks. Not having lips or much mobility or dexterity, they basically just gum the stalks until a shredded piece of stalk finally falls off into their mouth. As I observed at the Darwin Center, half of what they get into their mouth seems to fall out before they can swallow it.

It was funny when we were walking to the center. Marcie found a small yellowish fruit on the ground under a tree. She picked it up and tasted it, since it looked like the fruits Richar showed us yesterday that were tart but not unpleasant. I guess today's fruit was different, because it tasted really bad and she immediately spat it out. When we got to the center, there was a big sign warning people not to eat the fruits of the "poison apple tree"—that was what she had tasted. We joked about it but I confess to being a little concerned. It's possible she could have had some kind of reaction, but as it turned out there were no problems and she was fine.

Looking inside one of the cages where small tortoises are raised. The small tortoises could easily fit on your hand.   Once they get bigger they are raised in ground-level corrals. The smaller tortoises are dinner-plate-sized; the big one is serving-platter-sized.

It looks like this tortoise just finished eating. I though it was a rather surly-looking tortoise; in the right-hand picture the tortoise has raised its head and is giving me the evil eye.

Here's another tortoise still eating.  

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