Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hit the ground tortoise speed!

Hello world!

This is Francisco with a quick visual update of our activities since we arrived. We finally met face to face with everyone involved, including the 39 tortoises that will be re-populating Pinta. The tortoises are currently kept at the Charles Darwin Research Station and they are bigger than we expected! Their ages range from 15 - 100 yrs old, on average 40 yrs old.

For the past weeks they have been fed a special diet of stems and leaves (to avoid transporting Santa Cruz seeds to Pinta) and this week we will be on a special diet too (not stems and leaves, but nothing with viable seeds!)

As soon as we got here we started testing/programming the equipment. In the picture on above you see Garrison testing his telemetry skills. Elizabeth hid one of the VHF (Very High Frequency) tags in the bushes so we could try to find it. Its a bit like playing "Marco Polo", only that instead of a human voice you have a beep that gets louder as you get close to the device.

Our satellite/VHF tags that we will attach to the turtles to follow their movements seem to work fine. The picture on the right shows (from left to right) Garrison, Joe, James, Elizabeth, and Ben debating where to best place the satellite tags without harming the turtles or affecting their behavior.

Everything is running smoothly, except for the satellite modem that we planned to take with us to Pinta. For some inexplicable reason, it is not working in Galapagos (it did work in NY when Elizabeth tested it) ... I hope for our sake (and for the sake of the blog) that we are able to fix it...

That is it for now, wish us luck for tomorrow, when we will try to actually attach the tags to the tortoises! I expect it might be slightly challenging to keep these reptilian bulldozers from moving until we have finished our task...

-Francisco, Santa Cruz, Galapagos

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