Day 4, Sata Cruz Island.
On May 24th, we visited Santa Cruz Island. Galapagos giant tortoises are amazing animals. Today, we visited their territory to learn more about their history. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Giant tortoises were an important source of food for sea people navigating around the islands and also for the human population. During his journey, Charles Darwin visited the islands and mentioned them" At the time of our visit, the females had within their bodies numerous, large, elongated eggs, which they lay in the burrows:the inhabitants seek them for food".
We also saw more iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station. The research station also has a breeding program for endangered giant tortoises.
The town of Puerto Ayora is the archipelago's tourism hub. We had a chance to walk around the town. It was fun to watch the animals and birds mingle with the locals, eating whatever scraps they were given.
We had a chance to visit a local school on the island. This is the school's library.
One of the classrooms.
The boy in the green shirt was nice enough to give our group a tour of the school. We also listened to the kids play some music and visit a couple of their classrooms. All of the children were well behaved and happy to talk to us.
In the afternoon, we got on a bus to go see where the giant tortoises live. The bus driver stopped so a few of us could get out and photograph the turtle crossing sign. During the 20th and 21st century, the Galapagos giant tortoises were no longe being used as a food source. The living animal has become a symbol of life.
The Galapagos tortoise are the largest living species of tortoise who can weigh up to 417 kg(919 lb). Today, these tortoises exist only on two remote archipelagos: the Galapagos Islands and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, 700 km east of Tanzania. These tortoises have lifespans in the wild, of over 100 years which makes it one of the longest living vertebrates. A captive individual lived at least 170 years. Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed sells and short necks; on islands with dry lowlands, the animals are smaller, with "saddleback" shells and long necks. Charles Darwin's observations of these differences on the second voyage of the Beagle in 1835, contributed to the development of his theory of evolution.
Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970's. The decline was caused by overexploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agrictulture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats and pigs. Fortunately, conservation efforts beginning in the 20th century, have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released into their ancestral home islands and the total number of the species is estimated to have exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century.
After learning and seeing the giant tortoises, we headed back to the town and wandered around before it was time to return to the ship.
Once back on the ship, we watched the sun set.