Green Sea Turtle Meet The Galapagos’ Professor Reptile

alejandro_arteagaAlejandro Arteaga is an Ecuadorian-Venezuelan biologist and wildlife photographer. He is the scientific director of Tropical Herping, an institution he co-founded in 2009 to preserve tropical reptiles and amphibians through tourism, photography, education and research.

Alejandro was kind enough to answer a few questions about turtles and the Galapagos for us. Here are his words of wisdom.

  1. What makes The Galapagos so appealing to turtles?

    The Galapagos Islands have been a heaven for at least five species of marine turtles and 14 tortoises for millions of years. Green Sea-Turtles and Hawksbills nest and reside in Galapagos waters year-round. They do so probably because their nests face fewer predators here than in the mainland. To Giant Tortoises, Galapagos is a special place because, until the arrival of humans to the islands, they diversified and thrived in the absence of major predators (a special condition not met on the mainland).

  2.  What is the best time of year to see turtles in The Galapagos?

    In Galapagos, visitors may see giant tortoises in the wild throughout the year. However, during the dry season (Jun -Nov), tortoises congregate in greater numbers in the highlands, which improve’s visitors chances to see them. Sea turtles of two different species (Hawksbill and Green Sea-Turtles) may be seen in Galapagos waters throughout the year, but they are easier to see during nesting season, which coincides with the rainy season (Dec – May) with a peak in Feb – Mar.

  3. Which species of turtles can be found in The Galapagos?

    There are 19 species. Here is a complete list with information

  4. What is the rarest species of turtle to be found in The Galapagos?

    Among giant tortoises, it is the Fernandina Giant-Tortoise. Only one living female is known to exist.
Among sea turtles, it is the Loggerhead. It has only be seen in Galápagos waters twice.

  5. What are the majors threats to the future of the world’s turtles?

    The major threats to giant tortoises are:
    A) Introduced predators (pigs, dogs, cats, and ants), which prey on the eggs and hatchlings;
    B) The  disturbance of migratory routes;
    C) The conversion of tortoise habitat to agriculture and pastureland.The major threats to sea turtles are

    A) Incidental mortality due to interactions with fisheries;
    B) degradation of marine and nesting habitats;
    C) climate change (read why in the conservation section here);
    D) introduced predators (pigs, dogs, cats, and ants), which prey on the eggs and hatchlings.

  1. What  can visitors to the Galapagos do to help the conservation of turtles?
    Support projects like the: Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative