For approximately 43 years I have lived a lie. My beloved childhood pet turtle Mohammed Moshe (M.M) wasn’t actually a turtle at all but a tortoise. I now stand corrected in the knowledge that a turtle lives in water and a tortoise on land. And Galapagos has an abundance of both kinds. It’s truly breathtaking how close you can actually come to the animals and how many you see in the wild.

Wild tortoise and the breadbaskets
A lonesome tortoise and the Breadbaskets in Urbina Bay, Isabela

A very large population of giant tortoises can be seen on Santa Cruz island. The ranch next to the El Chato Reserve got so fed up with the tortoises breaking down the cattle fences on their strolls, that they finally gave up and are now letting the tortoises roam around freely on the grounds. Naturally, what they lost in cattle breeding, they won in tourist contributions!

Molly was fascinated by the mini-tortoises at the breeding center in Puerto Villamil, Isabela. In order to save the tortoises from being eaten by black rats – originating from the Spanish ships – stray dogs or ants, the eggs get collected and kept at the center until their shell is hard enough to save them from predators. Then the tortoises are released in the wild again and will hopefully breed naturally.

Tortoise close up
Only size can tell the age, even the young ones have wrinkles that would make any wife of a Russian oligarch opt for botox (Red. Daniel adds “…and future American president”)

The last of the Pinta species – Lonesome George – tragically died from heart failure at the age of 102 without having been able to secure an heir, although we learned that he had not given up trying. Since the Americans had so generously – and unselfishly – contributed to the Darwin Research Center where Lonesome George had resided, they felt that George was actually an American and his remains are now in New York. Time will tell if the Ecuadorians will be able to get him back. I think George himself would prefer to find peace in Galapagos.

Love is in the air
Even if attempts are made, breeding between the Galapagos species seldom works. Even when successful, the offspring is often sterile.
Close up of feeding tortoise
A tortoise can get around 150 years old. I guess he will outlive me.