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On the Galapagos Islands, giant tortoises make a huge comeback

The number of Espanola giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands dwindled down from several thousand to just 15 in 1960, but thanks to a little help from conservationists, more than 1,500 tortoises are now out in the wild.

A study published Tuesday in PLOS One reports that between 1963 and 1974, the 12 female and 3 male giant tortoises still living on the islands were brought into captivity in order to replenish the population. Since then, more than 1,500 offspring have been released, and now there is no longer any need for humans to intervene.

"The population is secure," James P. Gibbs, a professor at the State University of New York and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "It's a rare example of how biologists and managers can collaborate to recover a species from the brink of extinction."

The tortoises living there now will likely be there for a long time to come; Espanola giant tortoises can live well past 100 years old.