Galapagos conservation project prevents the evolution of ninja turtles

Adult Galápagos tortoise

Adult Galápagos tortoise

Giant tortoises are to be found only on the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles and on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.  Pinzón Island is home to the giant Galápagos tortoises of the endemic subspecies Chelonoidis nigra duncanensis. Pinzón is a tiny island covering 18 km2 right at the geographical centre of the Galapagos chain.

Galapagos Islands

The basic story is simple and just another example of a misguided conservation project where a successful species is exterminated to ensure the survival of an unfit species. The unfit species in this case is a reptile, the giant Galapagos tortoise which has been threatened by rodents of the black rat variety. Of course, black rats are politically incorrect and nasty and “vermin”, while the giant reptiles are seen as “cute” and “amusing” and “loveable”, even though the species is proving incompetent to adapt. (If rats had only been white they would probably be protected).

The rats preceded Darwin

By the time Darwin arrived in the Galapagos in 1835, the rodents had long since settled in. Mice and black rats were probably the first to arrive, introduced by pirates or whalers in the seventeenth century; since the 1980s, Norway rats have found their way there too.

Since 2012 a “conservancy project” has spent some $3 million to eradicate the rats and this now seems to have succeeded since new tortoise hatchlings have been observed for the first time in 150 years. That’s all very well, but there does not seem to be any one speaking up for the persecuted, murdered rats who, after all, have been present for over 300 years. They have been attacked by conservationists for over 50 years and -against all odds – have still thrived. Why this species-discrimination? Whatever happened to rodent rights?

In fact the rhetoric used by the conservationists reminds me of the language used by extreme, right-wing, anti-immigrant political parties:

“I just hated the immigrant killers because I could see what they were doing,” says Felipe Cruz, a lifelong conservationist who grew up on Floreana, one of four inhabited islands in the archipelago. In the early 1980s, Cruz spent nine months of the year camped in the Floreana highlands deploying a cocktail of rodenticide …… 

I find the analogy between conservationists as “specists” and right-wing, nationalistic, anti-immigration political parties as racists, quite revealing. Just as with conservationists who support politically correct species and try to exterminate the politically incorrect, right-wing extremists also support certain politically correct human races and try to exclude and remove the politically incorrect races. It is no great secret that even among immigrants in Europe there are “politically correct” races and those which are “politically incorrect”. The politically incorrect races are to be kept out. And conservationists all over Europe try to protect the unfit but politically correct species while destroying or keeping out the immigrant species.

But what conservationists are forgetting in their euphoria over killing all the rats on Pinzón is that without the rats there is no chance of the mutation needed to create Master Splinter and without Master Splinter there is no possibility that the Ninja Turtles will ever become a reality.

The Turtles’ sensei and adoptive father, Splinter is a Japanese mutant rat who learned the ways of ninjutsu from his owner and master, Hamato Yoshi. ……… Splinter was Hamato Yoshi mutated into a humanoid rat instead of being just Yoshi’s pet.

Master Splinter superherohype.com

 

Further Reading:

http://www.nature.com/news/invasive-species-the-18-km2-rat-trap-1.12992

http://www.galapagos.org/blog/pinzon-tortoise-survey-part2/

http://www.theguardian.com/science/animal-magic/2015/jan/16/rat-eradication-galapagos-tortoise-pinzon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splinter_(Teenage_Mutant_Ninja_Turtles)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teenage_Mutant_Ninja_Turtles

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