(WILDLIFE CONSERVATION/TORTOISES) Espanola giant tortoises living on the Galapagos Islands have come back from near extinction, according to a recent study. Just 50 years ago, the population of the giant tortoises was as low as 15. Recently, however, scientists have deemed the population as secure and no longer on the brink of extinction.

This is a major victory for conservationists and biologists alike to witness a species come back from near extinction. Read on to learn about why the Espanola giant tortoises were going extinct, and how scientists are helping save their population. — Global Animal

The Espanola giant tortoise can live over 100 years. Photo credit: Time
The Espanola giant tortoise can live over 100 years. Photo credit: Time

Time, Jack Linshi

They were down to only 15 about 50 years ago

Giant tortoises endemic to the Galapagos Islands are back from near extinction, according to a study published Tuesday in PLOS One.

The Espanola giant tortoises, a species that can live for over 100 years, had numbered in the thousands but dropped to 15 by 1960 due to human exploitation, the study said. Between 1963 and 1974, conservationists brought the 12 female and three male surviving giant tortoises into captivity. Over 1,500 of their offspring have since been released onto the island, and the species’ survival no longer requires human intervention, scientists said.

Conservationists no longer need to keep the giant tortoises in captivity. Photo credit: Nature World News
Conservationists no longer need to keep the giant tortoises in captivity. Photo credit: Nature World News

“The population is secure. It’s a rare example of how biologists and managers can collaborate to recover a species from the brink of extinction,” said James P. Gibbs, the study’s lead author and a professor of at the State University of New York’s Environmental Science and Forestry, in a press release.

Reintroducing the giant tortoise population not only promotes biodiversity but also restores their position as “ecosystem engineers” who disperse seeds and other organisms, according to the report. While the population is stable, the number of Espanola giant tortoises is not likely to increase substantially until other problems in the environment, such as the overgrowth of woody plants, are resolved.

More Time: http://time.com/3544926/giant-tortoises-galapagos/

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