Abigail lives on the island of Santa Cruz, in the Galapagos. The island has lush green forested areas in the highlands, dry areas on the coast that resemble an arid desert, a thriving town, and wildlife that is diverse and fascinating. One of the most iconic animals in the world, the giant Galapagos Tortoise makes its home here. Loved and well protected by the residents, these tortoises have seen a dramatic increase in numbers since their conservation efforts have been implemented. The tortoises draw thousands of tourists each year, which is important to people living in this remote world. The tortoises also represent a very important part of the overall health of the fragile ecosystem.
Galapagos tortoises wander freely on Santa Cruz. There are rehab and captive breeding centers, as well as more protected areas, but the tortoises are free to roam wherever they please, often making long treks to find nesting areas or breeding opportunities. Living as long as 200 years, and possibly longer, these tortoises will lay many eggs in their lifetime. They will also grow to a staggering 225kg (500lbs) with a shell large enough to fill the passenger compartment of a small car.
It is always a treat for the residents, or the tourists, to find a tortoise on the move. This giant male had taken a casual stroll down a bike path, making his way from the highlands in the direction of the ocean far below. Solon and his daughter were driving past in their electric car when they spotted the giant beast enjoying a rest and a meal at the side of the pedestrian/bike path. They stopped so that Solon could capture the moment and also so that he could deliver a short nature lesson for Abigail and others who would see his video later. Abigail seems interested enough, but these are animals that she will see frequently as she grows up on this incredible island. She will see sea lions, pelicans, crabs, iguanas and stingrays here regularly as well. These animals that the rest of us will likely only see on nature shows make their home all around her.
The people of the Galapagos Islands have a love and respect for the wildlife that is second to none. They maintain their distance and respectfully avoid interfering with any of the animals. They will gently guide or correct any of the tourists who are tempted to bend or break the rules with respect to distance or feeding of the wildlife, knowing that nature does not need any help from mankind.
The people of the Galapagos Islands are leaders in environmental responsibility. They have banned single use plastics. They allow only taxis, small motorcycles and electric cars on the island. In this way, pollution is kept to a minimum. They also understand and protect the delicate balance that is important to the native species.