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Documenting Decades of Insights: Galapagos Giant Tortoises Soon to be Published


A tortoise pauses on a gravel beach in the Galapagos Archipelago

After conducting decades of research and advising on giant tortoise conservation, including helping to rediscover descendants of a thought-to-be-extinct giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands earlier this year, Dr. James Gibbs is set to release the world's leading resource on these island dwellers: Galapagos Giant Tortoises.

The book, published by Academic Press, is the latest addition to the collection Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. A professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), Gibbs edited the book with colleagues Linda Cayot and Washington Tapia of the Galapagos Conservancy. The three have co-lead the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), a collaborative effort with the Galapagos National Park Directorate to restore tortoise populations to their historical distribution and numbers across Galapagos, including on islands where tortoises went extinct.

Of interest to researchers, conservationists, and students, Galapagos Giant Tortoises presents current information from leading authorities on giant tortoises. Despite being icons of the world-famous Galapagos Archipelago and the target of more than 50 years of conservation research and management, Galapagos giant tortoise evolution and much of their ecology remained unknown until recently. The 25 chapters of the book document the history, the pressing conservation issues, and success stories recovering several of the 15 different species of Galapagos tortoises from near extinction. These include ongoing efforts "de-extinct" two species of giant tortoises.

Readers will enjoy an historical overview of the relationship between humans and the Galapagos giant tortoises, including stories of exploitation by pirates and whalers. The iconic reptiles' biology is explored, including the evolution, taxonomy, ecology, habitats, reproduction, and behavior of these gentle giants. Captive breeding, invasive species management, and tortoise health, as well as the current status and distribution of every species are discussed.

The book features first-hand testimony, many images of tortoises in the field, and four case studies of species restoration. The book ends with the editors' prognosis on what the future holds for all tortoise populations.

"This book provides the first synthesis of our knowledge of these famous creatures, and will serve as a guide for full restoration of the giant tortoise dynasty of Galapagos over the next century," said Gibbs

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