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Nearly extinct tortoises now number 1,000

world Updated: Dec 17, 2012 00:58 IST

Once ‘nearly extinct’ Darwin’s Galapagos tortoises have made a spectacular comeback, with their numbers rising to more than 1,000 from a measly 15 in the 1970’s, conservationists say.

The tortoises, which helped inspire naturalist Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution, were virtually extinct — but owing to a successful breeding programme there are more than 1,000 on the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, Pinzen, and Espanola.

Conservationists began a unique project to return the environment back to the time when Darwin first visited the Galapagos, a group of rocky, volcanic islands, in the mid 19th century.

The current UNESCO world natural heritage site was and continues to be home to dozens of species.

Darwin was fascinated by the giant tortoise and in particular noted the difference in the shape of their shells between the different species on each island.