Galapagos Tortoises

Olddog

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Biochemistry and hematology parameters

of the San Cristóbal Galápagos tortoise

(Chelonoidis chathamensis) by Lewbart,GA etal


New publication from College of Vet Medicine at NCS, Galapagos Science Center,and
Parque Nacional Galápagos, Galapagos, Ecuador

Prior to relocation of a group of captive Galapagos tortoises, the Veterinary team performed assessments on 32 tortoises including blood chemistries, morphometric measurements, body temperatures and fecal samples. They compared thier results to those of Divers and Blakes studies previously published from data on different subspecies taken at a different time of year. As there has been no comprehensive baseline hematological studies published for Galapagos tortoises, this study is a welcome addition. It helps provide a baseline normal range of blood labratory data to which Galapagos tortoise results can be compared.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5815048/pdf/coy004.pdf
 

Olddog

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Cats and Galapagos tortoises sharing:


 

Olddog

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Age Determination from Scute Appearance

While wishing to avoid debate, will share a few photos from which the reader may be able to draw their own conclusions:

I believe we hatched the tortoises in the above posts between 2004 and 2007.

IMG_0725.jpg

IMG_0733.jpg
Tortoises have been outside since an early age. Grass supply is seasonal as we generally experience a dry cooler season and a wet season.


IMG_0715.jpg

The tortoise on the right was hatched elsewhere in 1985


IMG_0737.jpg

Large mature female of undetermined age.

Continuing below:
 

Olddog

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Age Determination from Scute Appearance: (continued)

The following were taken from the volcano Acedo area in 1995 prior to project Isabella to eradicate the introduced goats and donkeys:
caldrera.jpg
goats.jpg
gal_alcedob (1).jpg
Although we don't know the age of this tortoise, we can see ridging on the scutes.

F_Rim_Alcedo_b.jpg
Ridging present on scutes

gal_alcedo_g.jpg

We can probably agree this is an older tortoise.

gal_alcedod.jpg


Back to Florida:
IMG_0744.jpg
Female who was small when imported Townsend expedition 1928, 1930 (porteri)
IMG_0741.jpg
Male relatively small when imported Towsend expeditions 1928 or 1930. (porteri)
 

Olddog

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What subspecies do you keep? Have you hatched any?


We have been breeding Galapagos tortoises for many years. Some of the tortoises shown above were hatched in the 2004-2007 time period.

The following regarding Chelonoidis nigra subspecies may be more than you want to hear but I feel it necessary to qualify the response as there in not universal agreement.

There is controversy regarding nomenclature and subspecies. In the 90’s, Dr. Edward Louis, Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, the AZA studbook coordinator, drew blood from many Galapagos tortoises and developed markers to identify most subspecies. Some of our tortoises were included in this effort. These animals are included in the AZA studbook. Per Dr. Louis request, blood was drawn on the remainder of our tortoises and placed in containers with preservative sent by Dr. Louis. The samples were submitted in 2003. No results from this collection have been received from Dr. Louis despite multiple inquires. Tortoises from his initial studies were included in the AZA studbook but not all individuals in our collection have been resulted. Dr. Louis uses his subspecies determination methodology for the AZA studbook.

CABG_10_8_04_G28_204sm.jpg
In 2004, with the help of friends, we collected samples from most of the non-hatching collection and sent same to M. Russello with the Yale group. Before Dr. Russello graduated to his present position, he graciously ran the studies on about 20% of our samples (looking for possible hoodensis). These results were published in 2007 (Animal Conservation Vol 10, #3, August 2007 p 304-311). These are reported as haplotypes of the mitochondrial DNA (female) from known locations and Microsatellite multi-locus genotypes. In addition to the subspecies we had some hybrids resulting from a Santa Cruz (porteri or nigra nigra(AZA)) female with Isabella males. These studies gave us additional information about previously unknown tortoise linage.



Using the “2012 draft AZA studbook nomenclature” we hold specimens from:

Geochelone nigra nigrita - Santa Cruz ( now Chelonoidis nigra porteri)

Geochelone nigra becki - Piedras blancas

Geochelone nigra vicina - Southern Isabela (would also include guntheri)

Geochelone nigra microphyes - Darwin

Geochelone nigra vandenburghi – Alcedo

as well as subspecies hybrids.


We have been unable to match up pairs and breed from all subspecies.


In the 2012 AZA (yellow) Studbook recommendations, all 24 private participants were asked not to breed. I have not seen an update since this time. It is possible microphyes will be propagated in AZA institutions and the other subspecies/hybrids phased out by attrition. We have not hatched any eggs in the past two years in keeping with the recommendations.


A draft of the 2015 AZA Chelonian Advisory Group Regional Collection Plan is available online which may give some insight into AZA breeding direction as of 2015 . https://ams.aza.org/iweb/upload/DRAFT30DayReview_ChelonianTAGRCP2016-28f42a54.pdf


On a personal note:

When working with these amazing creatures under our stewardship, linage becomes academic. I doubt many of us, when interacting with these big black moving boulders with distinct and unique personalities, care from which region their parents hailed.
 

KevinGG

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What subspecies do you keep? Have you hatched any?


We have been breeding Galapagos tortoises for many years. Some of the tortoises shown above were hatched in the 2004-2007 time period.

The following regarding Chelonoidis nigra subspecies may be more than you want to hear but I feel it necessary to qualify the response as there in not universal agreement.

There is controversy regarding nomenclature and subspecies. In the 90’s, Dr. Edward Louis, Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, the AZA studbook coordinator, drew blood from many Galapagos tortoises and developed markers to identify most subspecies. Some of our tortoises were included in this effort. These animals are included in the AZA studbook. Per Dr. Louis request, blood was drawn on the remainder of our tortoises and placed in containers with preservative sent by Dr. Louis. The samples were submitted in 2003. No results from this collection have been received from Dr. Louis despite multiple inquires. Tortoises from his initial studies were included in the AZA studbook but not all individuals in our collection have been resulted. Dr. Louis uses his subspecies determination methodology for the AZA studbook.

View attachment 234447
In 2004, with the help of friends, we collected samples from most of the non-hatching collection and sent same to M. Russello with the Yale group. Before Dr. Russello graduated to his present position, he graciously ran the studies on about 20% of our samples (looking for possible hoodensis). These results were published in 2007 (Animal Conservation Vol 10, #3, August 2007 p 304-311). These are reported as haplotypes of the mitochondrial DNA (female) from known locations and Microsatellite multi-locus genotypes. In addition to the subspecies we had some hybrids resulting from a Santa Cruz (porteri or nigra nigra(AZA)) female with Isabella males. These studies gave us additional information about previously unknown tortoise linage.



Using the “2012 draft AZA studbook nomenclature” we hold specimens from:

Geochelone nigra nigrita - Santa Cruz ( now Chelonoidis nigra porteri)

Geochelone nigra becki - Piedras blancas

Geochelone nigra vicina - Southern Isabela (would also include guntheri)

Geochelone nigra microphyes - Darwin

Geochelone nigra vandenburghi – Alcedo

as well as subspecies hybrids.


We have been unable to match up pairs and breed from all subspecies.


In the 2012 AZA (yellow) Studbook recommendations, all 24 private participants were asked not to breed. I have not seen an update since this time. It is possible microphyes will be propagated in AZA institutions and the other subspecies/hybrids phased out by attrition. We have not hatched any eggs in the past two years in keeping with the recommendations.


A draft of the 2015 AZA Chelonian Advisory Group Regional Collection Plan is available online which may give some insight into AZA breeding direction as of 2015 . https://ams.aza.org/iweb/upload/DRAFT30DayReview_ChelonianTAGRCP2016-28f42a54.pdf


On a personal note:

When working with these amazing creatures under our stewardship, linage becomes academic. I doubt many of us, when interacting with these big black moving boulders with distinct and unique personalities, care from which region their parents hailed.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am sad to hear you have stopped incubating eggs, but I suppose one must follow the rules if you are to be a part of the organization. Your success is amazing.
 

Olddog

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Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am sad to hear you have stopped incubating eggs, but I suppose one must follow the rules if you are to be a part of the organization. Your success is amazing.
Thanks

The Galapagos SSP is a "Yellow" SSP, therefore recommendations are non-binding so as private individuals we are not absolutely obligated to follow the AZA studbook keeper's recommnedations of "no private tortoise breeding". That said, we do have animals in on breeding loan as well as out on breeding loan.

From a personal perspective, our collection of large tortoises requires several acres of space, passionate care, and resources. I am getting older. Under the mentorship of Ramon Nogel and Greg Moss, our ability to breed has been demonstrated. Although many of the original Townsend imports to this country are male, expired, or no longer able to breed and some subspecies will go extinct in captivity, it is unlikely many individuals will be able provide what is needed to maintain herds in the future. Zoos have real space limitations. Animals have become a "cost center" and employees are often not present for the nighttime egg collection. There are dedicated zoological stewarts of these animals but there is also politics and limited resources.

One can argue that it may be irresponsible to produce many tortoises which will outlive the breeder, potentially attain weighs of 200 to 600 pounds, and put them in the hands of hobbyists. On the other hand, devoted tortoise breeders are probably the source of the passion, inovation and resources required to work with and ensure the future of the magnificent animals. I favor the latter.
 

Olddog

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For Andrea W with Thanks! Mustard and Collards, Broccoli, Eggplant, and Cabbage

Due to hurricane damage, some of the herd has been confined to winter enclosures during tree removal and pasture renovation. The dry season, loss of irrigation and overgrazing has demolished their fresh grass supply. This is the first year some of the tortoises have lowered their standards to occasionally eating hay. Their recent diet has consisted of cut grass, tree and shrub leaves, hay and hay pellets, as well as supplemental produce.

Out tortoises were pleasantly surprised to receive a truckload of collard and mustard greens, broccoli plants and cabbage from a field soon to be plowed. The herd would like to thank Andrea (and Erik) for their tasty snack. Even those in pastures with irrigated grass promptly cleaned their plates.

IMG_0966.jpg


IMG_0960.jpg
IMG_0922.jpg

Intimidation, the tallest wins


IMG_0994.jpg
 

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