QUITO – A group of scientists attached video cameras to the shells of three giant tortoises to gather hitherto unknown information on the behavior of these animals indigenous to the Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, or PNG, said.
As park officials said in a communique this week, the project “consists of attaching a video camera known as a Crittercam to the shells of three giant tortoises – two of them at the tortoise-breeding center in Puerto Ayora, and another in the nature reserve on the upper altitudes of Santa Cruz Island.
By means of the project, scientists expect to obtain videos of tortoise behavior still unknown to them, Washington Tapia, head of the PNG directorate’s conservation and sustainable development process, said.
“The goal is to test whether this technology will allow us to obtain pictures...for example, of what they do at night, during the mating season, seasonal migrations and other phenomena,” he said.
The cameras will remain attached to the tortoises for three weeks during the experimental phase. Once the information is obtained, the content will be analyzed and “if it turns out to be very useful, there is a commitment to design other (cameras) specifically for this species with a greater capacity for collecting information,” he said.
The use of Crittercams on wild animals is not new, having been used previously on such species as lions, sharks and birds, and have yielded “excellent results,” although this is the first time they will be tried on giant tortoises, the PNG note said.
This pilot plan is being carried out as part of a tripartite agreement of the PNG directorate, the Charles Darwin Scientific Foundation and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, with the collaboration of the National Geographic Society.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of the evolution of species.
Ninety-five percent of the territory’s 8,000 sq. kilometers (a little over 3,000 sq. miles) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.
In 1978, the Galapagos National Park was inscribed as a World Heritage site and in 1984 the islands became a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
In 2001, UNESCO extended the Galapagos World Heritage status to include the marine reserve of 43,500 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands.