Giant wild tortoise gets right of way over traffic in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are home to many species of animals, but none are as iconic as the giant Galapagos Tortoise. A mammoth creature that can reach 2m (6 feet in length) and exceed 230kg (500lbs), they are awe inspiring and highly revered. They even reach an age of over 200 years under ideal conditions. But they are also incredibly slow moving. And occasionally, a giant tortoise crossing the road can cause a traffic jam.
Taxis on Santa Cruz Island were driving on the main road from the north side of the island to the town on the south side, bringing tourists from the boats. As they neared an area that is heavily populated with giant tortoises, traffic slowed and the taxis moved respectfully into the oncoming lane to give it space. The tourists were delighted to get a close up view of one of these spectacular animals, even if it wasn't quite in its natural environment. Rushing to get out the GoPro, part of the event was captured on video.
The residents of the Galapagos Islands take their responsibility to nature very seriously. They limit development, place strict rules on interaction with wildlife, and respectfully insruct newcomers regarding the need to obey these limits. People are forbidden from harassing animals or even getting closer than 2m. Much of the islands are deemed to be national parks and visits are limited to certain areas.
In this case, the tourist with the camera asked, in his best, but limited Spanish, if they should help the turtle. The taxi driver explained that people will be very careful and that the turtle was too heavy to move without its cooperation, which would be unlikely. He also explained that the contact with people would be more stressful for the turtle than allowing it to continue on its own. Communication between taxi drivers would also ensure that they all knew of the hazard. Interestingly, almost all vehicles on this island are for public transport. The few personal vehicles here must be electric vehicles.
There are several species of giant tortoise on the islands. Most of them have declined in numbers due to consumption many decades ago, as well as the accidental introduction of rats to the islands. Through heroic efforts of residents and conservation programs, the numbers are now increasing and the populations are rebounding. Some of the breeding programs have actually made world news headlines and people everywhere are applauding the success of the tortoises.
Fortunately for the tourists, they were also able to see these tortoises in their natural environment. Even more fortunate is that they found and observed two giant tortoises actually mating in a remote location.
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is not complete without a close look at some of the oldest and most magnificent animals we could ever meet.