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(Photo Credit: Tim Howard)

When our producer Tim Howard landed in the Galapagos, fresh from his honeymoon, he had the ghost of Darwin and dreams of Eden in his head. But he found something very different from what Darwin would¹ve seen. With a local election just days away, Tim discovered a strange new tension between the people who live there and the people who want to preserve the archipelago's incredible ecology.  We meet the tortoises, those massive, lumbering creatures that mystified Darwin, and then we meet one of the most worst threats the tortoises have ever seen: the goats. 

Nobody wants to see the tortoises disappear, as conservationists Linda Cayot, Karl Campbell, and Josh Donlan explain, but actually protecting the tortoises' home can be grisly, brutal work.

Comments [11]

Patrick Murray-John

Linda's comment touched on this question -- what happened to the goats killed? The idea of retrieving them as a food source makes sense, but the helicopter setup and sheer numbers makes it hard to think that happened. So, were there environmental consequences, or a change in the food chain on the islands due to having so much (literally) dead meat available? Upshoot in scavenger population on the islands?

Mar. 13 2016 12:25 PM
Michael Kalish from California

Just listened to your story about decimating goats for decimating the tortoise. Very ironic that you would defend a tortoise from natural selection on the Galapagos. Even if humans brought goats, they are not a pest when managed well - like they have been for thousands of years in Europe. Your story was gruesome, senseless and chillingly sensational. I have worked in slaughter houses and meat packing plants as well as farms that raised and processed goats and what you described was one of the worst things I have ever heard. Those poor judas goats. Try working with goats and you'll understand, maybe.

Mar. 12 2016 05:31 PM
Matias from Quito, Ecuador

Hey, I live in Ecuador
Thanks for talking about the Galapagos islands on your show, I've been there many times and enjoy it (although its VERY hot), I enjoy your podcasts.

Dec. 11 2015 06:27 PM
Linda Mahony from Ithaca, New York

Idea: What about feeding the goats to hungry people on the Galapagos islands? Via lead-free bullet hunting, which should be done anyways. Perhaps a trash clean-up program would need to accompany such an endeavor in order to prevent meat contamination. This could be done in other places where invasive goats are an issue. For instance, on Kauai, Hawaii, an island where people eat goats in the rural protected area of the Kau Lau Lau valley (I've probably misspelled it), which is off the hiking trail with the same name name except 'trail' is used instead of 'valley.' Goats are a regular part of the cuisine on Tobago. In a similar 'vein,' extra venison is given to food pantries in the continental US. However, I have read that when the meat has been tested, researchers found lead contamination.

Also, I think when y'all were discussing speciation in the second story, you meant that it has yet to be seen whether the different species of birds could mate and create an offspring that is able to reproduce. This is part of the definition of a species--whether offspring are able to reproduce. This could have been clearer.

Bonus grammar tip (yes, I know my grammar has not been perfect in this comment and I hope this counts as being on topic bc you may have used this particular improper grammar in this show--I've stopped counting instances): When one is discussing a scenario in which something is occurring, it is proper grammar to say 'in which' instead of 'where' unless one is discussing an actual location.

Thanks for your show!

Nov. 30 2015 02:16 PM
Jim from Brevard, North Carolina

Goats decimate ecosystems whenever they are allowed to run wild. The Greek Isles, Iceland, and some of the Galapagos have had their ecosystems decimated by goats and sheep. Fortunately, these areas are rebounding where these ungulates were removed. I fully support the goat eradication program in Galapagos. We need a few areas that remain relatively primordial. People are gone from all but 4 of the islands; the goats need to go too.

Aug. 11 2015 04:06 PM

I thought what they did to the goats was horrible. I also thought the notion that the tortoises were somehow better or more in line with nature was silly and delusional.

Dec. 22 2014 03:27 PM
Suzanne Williams from Michigan

At first I was so interested, then turned to HORROR as I listened to shots fired and details of the massacre of goats and how man tried to outsmart the goats as they became "smart" to the helicopters. Kinda of ironic now isn't it. I tried to go back after changing the channel but it went on and and on and just drove home the force of human ugliness on helpless creatures. Then I hear about birds with things burrowing in their beaks and a dead one in a box. How about you report on the Bureau of Land Management in the USA mowing down our WILD HORSES by the thousands & penning them up, sending them to slaughter. How about talking about the hideous way we are "taming" the west in the name of private cattle, the cattleman, the west's renewal of land grabs- mares and babies separated, stallions killed as they try to defend their herd. Check I'm happy to talk to you and educate you on this. Man, you upset me the week of CHRISTMAS!

Dec. 21 2014 11:43 PM

When the story got to the people living on the island attacking the national park buildings, I got pretty upset. Not with the national park, but with those people.

They shouldn't be living on that island if they can't use the resources in a sustainable manner. And if they kidnapped people and threw molotov cocktails, then they deserve whatever they get. I'm on the tortoises' side on this one.

Oh, and goats suck. I 100% agree with exterminating them. They're like plus-size rats.

Oct. 22 2014 03:18 PM

The goats genocide in Galapagos was an absolutely awful revolting story. This is science at its worst. Galapagos is not that important, not for science and not even for evolution. 250,000 wild goats were killed to honor the god of conservationism. Barbaric!

Aug. 26 2014 05:03 AM

Judas Goats!

Jul. 22 2014 11:40 PM
Marilyn Wiedemann

Thanks for this wonderful program. Brings back memories of our trip there years ago.
BUT I suggest you DO read Darwin's Voyage. Turns out Darwin did NOT himself notice the differences among the tortoise shells. He collected tortoises and upon dining with the locals (many living there then, surprise)was amazed to hear them casually pointing out which island each tortoise came from. That surprised him. So he took a bit more notice.
Also, finches? Well, Darwin didn't get that quite right either. It took getting back home and contacting another scientist to clarify what was going on. And that's the guy that drew them too. I haven't got the book handy or I'd do a better job of identifying names.
I'm listening to the goat part. Your emphasis seemed odd. Killing goats? Wish you'd talked about why they were there in the first place: to feed the sailors stationed there by ships to collect tortoises for the ships. It seems tortoises can live for a year without food or water, so gathering up hundreds to place onboard ships meant food on the ship for a long time. The story is not the goats, but the tortoise gathering. Amazing. Hundreds were "harvested" for ships passing by. So,it wasn't really that "tortoises got their home back." It was that tortoises were being decimated. Goats were a byproduct of a food enterprise. But yes, good to get rid of the goats. (Why not do that by sterilization though??)
And those people? Galapagos was used as a prison for years. Not just tourists. ha

Jul. 22 2014 11:08 PM

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