Monday, February 8, 2010

More Tortoises - in the wild...

The pix on my last blog featured the tortoises in the Charles Darwin Research Station.
In the following pix - they are in their natural habitat. Still on the island of Santa Cruz but now up in the 'highlands'.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lonesome George and Co....

We showed up early to visit Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz island as we'd been told that later in the afternoon, he likes to stay cool and hidden under some vegetation. We weren't to be disappointed. He made his grand appearance - slowly working his way out of his den. What an amazing creature! These guys look like they come straight out of the dinosaur age. Here's his bio...

Lonesome George (Spanish: Solitario Jorge) is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise (Geochelone nigra abingdoni) which is one of eleven extant subspecies of Galápagos tortoise, all of which are native to the Galápagos Islands.[1][2] He has been labelled the rarest creature in the world, and is a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally.[3] It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel.

George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by American snail biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi. The island's vegetation had been decimated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous G. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, but although eggs have been produced, none have hatched.

George is estimated to be 60–90 years of age, and is in good health.[4] A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state.

The presence of mixed race Pinta ancestry tortoises around Wolf Volcano, on neighbouring Isabela island, suggests the recent presence of at least one Pinta individual near Wolf Volcano. A possible purebreed Pinta candidate, male and dubbed "Tony", lives in a Prague zoo.

There is a reward of $10,000 for the discovery of a Pinta female.[5]


And here are some of the others at the centre - it was lunch time...
Not so lonesome George:)

Friday, February 5, 2010

An underwater ballet...

Before the shark incident of 2010 (not really an incident but I love the drama of saying I swam with sharks!), I got to witness one of nature's most beautiful and mesmerizing underwater ballets!
Having baby sea-lions swim and play safely with us in the water was soul-tickling but witnessing the moving and graceful dance of this sea-lion with a school of silver fish almost took my breath away (insert snorkel here).
It was a truly magical performance. It couldn't have been lit more perfectly by the sun gleaming down through the water and the fish glistening as the sea-lion broke through the group - dipping and swaying as if listening to their own classical ballad. Our private show went on for several minutes and it was nature's perfection. Who knew these creatures could be so graceful?
The performance may have ended with a few of those fish ending up in the sea-lion's belly and they might not have so joyfully called it a 'dance' but that's all part of the circle of life.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I swam with sharks!

What an adventure that was! I'm downloading all the photos (over 700!!!) and will attach a link for you here. Definitely a trip of my lifetime with treasured memories that will be hard to describe. I saw all of the below and so much more.
And...umm...I swam with sharks!!! (and lived to tell the tale:) Oh look, there's a sea lion, and a penguin and...look at those beautiful fish! "Shark, Shark!" screamed Walter, our naturalist/guide. I looked over to see if this was a warning to get out of the water fast or a call to come and have a look. He didn't look concerned so we swam closer to him. As we approached, he started humming the "Jaws" theme and laughing! I looked down to see at least 3 white-tipped reef sharks swimming (here's a video I found on youtube so you can see what they look like) right underneath us! Apparently they don't like humans unless you tempt them with blood. whew! I could hear my breath coming quicker through my snorkel but tried to remain as calm as possible. We continued to swim along and look at all the other beautiful sea creatures - happily leaving the sharks behind, when all of a sudden I looked down to see about 20 of them circling underneath us. I almost squeezed poor George's hand off and once again tried to keep my breathing under control. As with every other creature we saw in Galapagos, the sharks didn't seem to be too bothered by us and were happy to stay swimming with the bottom-dweller fish. I, on the other hand, am satisfied to say, been-there-done-that, and am happy to leave the sharks alone and move on to other adventures!