Giant Tortoises Island Hop Across the Galápagos

by NY Times staff

Giant Galápagos tortoises, the world’s biggest, have had it rough. Thanks to pirates and whalers eating them and to non-native species like goats destroying their habitat, four of the 14 documented species are extinct. Most recently, the Pinta species vanished with the 2012 death of Lonesome George, after decades of attempts to get him to reproduce.

But the tortoises emerging from the crates above represent a milestone in tortoise restoration efforts. They are among 201 tortoises recently released onto Santa Fe Island, which lost its tortoise species a century and a half ago.

We wanted to do this for a long time,” said Linda Cayot, the science adviser for the Galápagos Conservancy, which, in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, runs the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative. It wasn’t easy. Without any Santa Fe tortoises left (nobody alive now has actually seen them – their existence is known mainly from whalers’ logbooks and museum-preserved bone fragments), conservationists turned to a close genetic relative: tortoises from Española Island…

(read more: NY Times – Science)

photograph by Galapagos Conservancy

JET SETTERS! (without the jets)


Home’s Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys homeana)

… derives its common name from the unique, moveable ‘hinge’ at the rear of its elongated carapace (upper shell) which allows the tortoise to cover up its rear legs and tail when threatened. This species, along with others in the genus Kinixys, are the only tortoises in the world to possess this unusual structure. 

Photograph by Tomas Diagne 


Turtle Survival Alliance)


Wood Turtles @ Seney National Wildlife Refuge , MI

by Andrea Martinson

This guy was found near M-2 pool not too long
ago. Wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are the rarest of the three turtles species we have on
the Refuge. They are recognized by their sculpted-looking carapace (top
of the shell) and their yellowish-black plastron (underside of the

They tend to live in forested areas and river banks. It’s not a
picky eater, and enjoys snacking on leaves, berries, earthworms, snails,
insects, or even carrion. One way they eat earthworms is by repeatedly
stomping or slamming their shell into the ground. The vibrations make
the worms emerge from the soil, making the wood turtle’s job much

(via: Seney National Wildlife Refuge )


NOAA Podcasts:  Saving the Leatherback Sea Turtle

The Leatherback is a most unusual species of sea turtle. In the Pacific, it’s also among the most endangered.

In celebration of Sea Turtle Day, today’s podcast is about
leatherback sea turtles. Leatherbacks are the largest species of sea
turtle out there, and they migrate farther than any other. And in the
Pacific Ocean, they’re also among the most endangered.

To talk with us about leatherback sea turtles, we have Scott Benson
on the line. Benson is a research biologist at NOAA’s Southwest
Fisheries Science Center, and he’s an expert on leatherback sea turtles.

In this interview, Benson discusses some of the threats that
leatherbacks face and what scientists, conservationists, and fishermen
are doing to address those threats. He also explains what measures you
as a consumer can take to help protect leatherback sea turtles.


photographs by Karen Benson and Karin A. Forney/NOAA.