Crowded under a rock in the Galapagos archipelago, the baby tortoises wait for the sun to go down to leave their shelter.
Nothing disturbs these eastern Santa Cruz tortoises (scientific name Chelondis donfaustoi), which were determined just two years ago to be a new species native to the Ecuadoran islands that inspired Charles Darwin.
Kept safe on Santa Cruz island and raised in captivity, their nursery is one of three centers in the archipelago’s national park where 12 species of giant tortoises, unique in the world, are bred.
Stretching their necks and poking their heads out of tiny shells, they nibble on nutritious, starchy leaves of tropical plants brought in from the continent 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away. Digestion plunges them into afternoon slumber.
“We let them stay a little hungry. That way, when they return to the wild they go looking for their food,” the director of the national park, Walter Bustos, told AFP.