Soon after we arrived in the Galapagos we spotted these tracks, left by the mother tortoises as they moved down to the ocean after depositing eggs in shallow sand pits. These tracks are about four feet from side to side, left by a big tortoise!
Lonesome George - the last tortoise of his species. We saw him in the Charles Darwin Research Station which is devoted in large part to preserving the large tortoises on the islands, which have been driven to extinction on many of the islands and close to it on others, due to massive hunting by people and due also to their inability to compete for food with the animals (goats, pigs, cattle) introduced onto the islands by people. Lonesome George has been given two female playmates in hopes that his genetic line can continue, more or less, but he does not seem to be very interested in playing with them.
Also at the Charles Darwin station there is a breeding program, which incubates baby tortoises and raises them until they are rat-proof and pig-proof (which takes 3 or 4 years) and then introduces them to the wild.
There are about half a dozen giant tortoises which hang around together in the research station and which are accessible to visitors.
Here one of the giant tortoises is breathing on Roger. Roger pointed to the tortoises's ear, for some reason, and the tortoise stood up! It turned out that Roger had made a motion which matched the signal which little birds give when they want to groom the tortoise; then he stands up so the birds can do a thorough job of grooming - a symbiotic relationship. But this was a false alarm and the tortoise eventually sat down again.
Doesn't he have a lovely smile?
After leaving the research station we took a bus ride to a tortoise preserve, a large area on the same island where tortoises are running wild. They are easy to find since they leave such a big track of flattened-down grass. This fellow was easily as large as the ones on the research park. We also saw quite a few smaller tortoises in the wild.