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THE ORIGIN OF LIFE: Brand new state- of-the-art incubators at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center in Santa Cruz maintain a constant temperature for fragile eggs like the one below

The Science of Breeding Tortoises

Galapagos Conservancy, together with Conservando Galapagos, have an important role in conserving the Archipelago. We have a partnership agreement with the Galapagos National Park Directorate to rewild all 13 species of the Galapagos Giant Totoises. We use every tool we can to speed up the breeding, incubating and hatching of tortoises.

In 1965, a pioneering captive breeding program was established on Santa Cruz Island to help recover Critically Endangered Galapagos Giant Turtoise Populations. Later, Breeding Centers were opened on Isabela Island and San Cristobal Islands. The eggs are either taken from the wild to the Centers for hatching or kept in captivity. When the tortoises reach the size to resist predators, the eggs are hatched. They are then released into the wild.The incubators must be kept at a temperature that is suitable for the survival of the embryos as well as the determination of the sex of hatchlings. Galapagos Giant Turtoise eggs incubate at 72-93 degrees F in the wild. Temperatures between 78 and 85 degrees F produce most males. To increase wild release of tortoises, we plan to breed more females.

To hatch baby tortoises, the first breeding program used artisanal solar incubators made of wood and lined by cement. To maintain eggs at a constant temperature, electric hair dryers were connected to timers. Iniciativa Galapagos funded the modernization and expansion of Santa Cruz and Isabela’s Breeding Centers. This included a sophisticated automated incubator system that controls and regulates the temperature.

In 1970, the program’s first great success was when 20 of its first baby tortoises were born in captivity and released to Pinzon Island. Nearly 9,000 juvenile tortoises were released back to their islands of origin since then. Captive rearing is responsible for the survival of as many as a third all Galapagos Giant Tortoises today. Galapagos Conservancy, Conservando Galapagos and Conservando Galapagos have supported the Galapagos National Park in maintaining three breeding centers. There are many threats to Giant Tortoises and their numbers remain below 10%. We are thrilled to announce that the San Cristobal Breeding Center will reopen in 2023. Today, 2,200 more juvenile tortoises are being kept at the Breeding Centers. They will soon be released into nature, and there will be thousands more.