According to Hernan Rodas, founder and owner, his company has purchased 20 acres adjacent to the Galapagos National Park, a short drive from the company's Aventura Lodge on Santa Cruz. Here animals have free and unobstructed movement. While there are a number of tortoise farms dotting the islands, Red Mangrove's will be the first actual reserve for these giant reptiles.
"We see this as a necessary step for the preservation of the threatened Galapagos giant tortoise," said Rodas.
He said the reserve is being created from a minimalist, least environmental impact perspective. Only guests visiting Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge may walk the grassy trails on the preserve. Although there will be washroom facilities and a rain shelter, there will be no gift stores.
"This reduced traffic and development will limit any impact on the tortoises and their environment," said Rodas, underscoring that conservation is the top priority. Red Mangrove Galapagos and Ecuador Lodges seeks to build alliances with local conservation organizations and the national park for the greatest benefit to the species. April or May 2012 is the anticipated completion date of Red Mangrove Tortuga Reserve.
At present the site harbors 30 to 40 giant tortoise, but the total number at any time will depend of how humid it is and how much water is in a small pond that attracts the tortoise. These reptiles weigh up to 880 pounds and in the wild can live for over a century.
The name Galapagos comes from the Spanish word for tortoise. Early explorers would have witnessed the species in numbers of over 250,000 in the 16th century. By the 1970s the number had dropped to around 3,000 and the species is classified "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.