Walking in the footsteps of Galápagos giants: Wild tortoises in Google Maps

The giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands have been stalwart survivors for centuries, but the last few hundred years have been rough. Once so numerous that sixteenth century explorers actually named the archipelago “galápago” for the old Spanish word for tortoise, the rats and hungry sailors that followed them caused the tortoises’ numbers to dwindle almost to extinction. Today, thanks to the establishment of tortoise breeding centers and invasive species eradication programs carried out by the Government of Ecuador, the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation, the giant tortoise is back. And now, you can follow the giant tortoises all around the Galápagos with Street View in Google Maps.

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In 2013, we partnered with the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galápagos National Park to collect 360-degree imagery of the landscapes and wildlife of the Galápagos. Last year, we extended our partnership to our loan program and sent the Street View Trekker back to the Galápagos Islands so that our partners could collect more imagery to support ongoing conservation and scientific studies. Thanks to the conservation effort that saved them, you can now view the tortoises in their natural habitats on islands like Pinzón and Isabela, happily traversing the wild terrain or just enjoying a morning meal.

The Street View Trekker collecting imagery along a lava shoreline

Similar to Charles Darwin’s exploration in 1835 that inspired his theory of evolution, scientists and park managers continue to study and protect these majestic creatures. Most people think of tortoises as very sedentary animals, but in fact, they’re frequently on the move. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology allows observers to track the movements of giant tortoises across the different islands. For example, the data shows that on Alcedo volcano, the tortoises undergo long distance, annual migrations related to the seasons and availability of water.

To explore more of the sites from today’s Galápagos release, or imagery from our previous trip in 2013, take a look at the Galápagos Street View Gallery. And remember: you’re with the tortoises, not the hares, so take your time and enjoy!

Posted by Raleigh Seamster, Program Manager for Google Earth Outreach

Source: Google LatLong