Many factors influence whether resource-use patterns will be sustainable. Here, a Galapagos giant tortoise subsists on a severely simplified diet: introduced Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon). While this example is seemingly unrelated to the symposium’s study of the resilience of wildlife to harvesting and management among indigenous villages in the Rupununi of Guyana, it serves to point out the universal dilemma of where management should go from here in areas where local practices or conditions resist external pressures to increase protection, whether in northern South America or on remote islands 650 miles off Ecuador.
The artist notes: “These reptiles are among the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging around 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152. They are also the world's largest tortoises with some exceeding 5 feet in length and reaching 550 pounds. As the only native land herbivore in Galapagos they were hunted as food by pirates, whalers and merchants during the 17th to 19th centuries, with an estimated loss of more than 200,000 individuals. Only 11 of 15 forms are left in Galapagos, and human activity has substantially altered their habitat, leaving 60 percent of 168 endemic plant species close to extinction. Non-native species such as feral pigs, dogs, cats, rats, goats and cattle continue to threaten their food supply and eggs.
In the fall of 2009, I was privileged to study these gentle giants in their natural habitat as the recipient of the 10th fellowship of the Artists for Conservation Flag Expedition program.”