Pinta Tortoise

Pinta Island in the Galapagos Archipelago has had two major ecosystem disruptions in recent history: the loss of its nativeecosystem engineer, the Pinta giant tortoise (now represented by a single individual, “Lonesome George”), and severe devegetation caused by a large and invasive population of goats.  Ecosystem restoration on Pinta began with the culmination of the 30-year goat eradication program in 2003.  Restoration progressed to the next stage in 2010 when the Galapagos National Park introduced a group of 39 non-reproductive adult “ecological analog” tortoises to reinstate the ecosystem services that Pinta tortoises previously provided.

Project Title:
Ecosystem restoration on Pinta Island, Galapagos, through the reintroduction of giant tortoises

Research objectives for the monitoring of this introduced population are to:

  1. Determine what habitat features drive tortoise behavior
  2. Estimate changes in the plant community due to tortoise presence
  3. Make management recommendations to the Galapagos National Park for future tortoise introductions to Pinta.

Location: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Timeline: 2010-2012

Field participants:
Elizabeth Hunter (M.S. candidate, SUNY-ESF)
Francisco Laso (2010-2011 Technician, American Museum of Natural History)
Garrison Loope (2010 Technician, Pennsylvania State University)
Benjamin Risk (2010 Technician, Cornell University)
Caitlin Homan (2011 Technician, SUNY-ESF)
John Mulligan (2011 Technician, SUNY-ESF)
Claire Phillips (2011 Technician, USGS)

Principal Investigators:
James P. Gibbs (SUNY-ESF), Elizabeth Hunter (SUNY-ESF)

Galapagos Conservancy, Galapagos National Park Service

For more information:

Elizabeth Hunter, M.S. Candidate
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Syracuse, NY 13210, USA