Published by Yale University Press, October 2019.

Published by Yale University Press, October 2019.

The Galápagos archipelago is often viewed as a last foothold of pristine nature. For sixty years, conservationists have worked to restore this evolutionary Eden after centuries of exploitation at the hands of pirates, whalers, and island settlers. This book tells the story of the islands’ namesakes—the giant tortoises—as coveted food sources, objects of natural history, and famous icons of conservation and tourism. By doing so, it brings into stark relief the paradoxical, and impossible, goal of conserving species by trying to restore a past state of prehistoric evolution. The tortoises, Elizabeth Hennessy demonstrates, are not prehistoric, but rather microcosms whose stories show how deeply human and nonhuman life are entangled. In a world where evolution is thoroughly shaped by global history, Hennessy puts forward a vision for conservation based on reckoning with the past, rather than trying to erase it. 


Hennessy lays bare the many intertwined issues that confront us as we attempt conservation efforts in complex situations, while faced with a sweeping ecological crisis... a gripping history.
Fresh, insightful... Hennessy’s melding of human and natural history makes for thought-provoking reading.
— Booklist, starred review
Wonderfully interesting, informative, and engaging, as well as scholarly.
— Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
Hennessy’s book isn’t just about the controversial efforts to preserve the world’s most famous tortoises—it also provides an expansive tour de force of Darwinian ideas, the Galapagos, human entanglements in evolution, and the risks of icon-making.
— Daniel Lewis, author of Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i
Timely, fresh, and compelling...a must-read for anyone interested in the environmental history of the Galapagos and tortoise conservation.
— Jamie Lorimer, University of Oxford, author of Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature