It was Thursday already, and after several days of hardcore natural experiences, it was time to revisit civilization and learn how human beings can fix what human beings broke many years ago. For that we visited Puerto Ayora, the largest village in Galapagos, and home of the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station headquarters. We also visited the Fausto Llerena Rearing Center for Giant Tortoises; since 1965 they have been restoring giant tortoise populations affected by human activities. There, the Española Island tortoise population grew from merely thirteen to almost 2500 individuals. This number was large enough to suspend the program and send a few hundred tortoises to live on Santa Fe Island, where tortoises became extinct in 1897. This is where the late Lonesome George, the most famous giant tortoise ever, lived from 1971 to 2012. Scientists tried everything technology allowed to bring back a population that was biologically extinct, represented by one single individual who eventually died childless. Today, the Galapagos National Park Service and their partners are using selective breeding of hybrid animals in an effort to restore two species: the tortoises from Pinta and Floreana Islands.
We enjoyed some sightseeing in Puerto Ayora, then we boarded buses to visit El Trapiche. At this farm Don Adriano Cabrera showed us how farmers lived and thrived half a century ago. Next we proceeded to El Manzanillo Private Tortoise Reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz. There we had a great lunch, then we put on our rubber boots and started searching for yet more giant tortoises in a natural setting. Nobody left disappointed.