A pair of mating giant tortoises were interrupted by a hawk landing on one of their shells – in one of a series of beautiful photos showing the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
The giant tortoises, who were made famous by Charles Darwin’s encounters with them during his voyages on HMS Beagle, are native to the islands and can live for more than 100 years.
One of the creatures became a landing pad for a Galapagos hawk, a bird which feeds on locusts, centipedes and even snakes and lizards on the islands off the coast of Ecuador.
The photo – along with evocative images of birds in flight, shoals of fish and a snake feeding on an iguana – is contained in a new book called A Lifetime In Galapagos by photographer Tui De Roy.
Pictured left: A Galapagos hawk lands on top of two mating giant tortoises, the emblematic species of the island whose members can live for more than 100 years and contributed to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Pictured right: a green turtle swimming with a shoal of striped salemas in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, which are off Ecuador
A shoal of scalloped hammerhead sharks swim in the waters of the Galapagos Islands. The sharks can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans but the Galapagos is one of the few places where several hundreds of them gather at a time
A Nazca booby – a type of bird – bites at a vampire ground finch which was feeding on its blood – a habit which gives it its name. The booby family is thought to get its name from the Spanish ‘bobo’, meaning stupid, because of their clumsy nature
Galapagos hawk juveniles are captured play-fighting in mid-air – one of them gripping the other’s tail feathers. When they grow to adults, the birds have an average wingspan of nearly 4ft (120cm)
A Galapagos racer snake feeding on a marine iguana hatchling. The racer snakes are known to prey on creatures including lizards and geckos as well as young birds, while some have even been observed hunting for fish
The collection includes several images of the Galapagos hawks, including one where the bird is feeding a hatchling turtle to one of its chicks.
Another image shows a Nazca booby, a type of bird, biting at a vampire ground finch which had been feeding on its blood – a habit which gives it its name.
Shoals of Hammerhead sharks and a sea lion playing with pufferfish are also seen at close quarters in the collection of photos.
Wildlife experts describe the Galapagos Islands, which are 600 miles off the South American coast, as a ‘priceless living laboratory’ because of the wealth of endemic species.
Photographer Miss De Roy, 67, sees the book as her life’s work and chronicles her intimate moments with flycatchers and orchids in the forest and sharks and iguanas in the sea.
Miss De Roy, a writer and conservationist as well as a photographer, divides her time between her world travels, Galapagos and New Zealand.
She said: ‘I started shooting professionally when I was just 16, and my photo projects have since taken me to some of the remotest, wildest corners of all seven continents, but this has only heightened my fascination for the Galapagos Islands and their wildlife.
‘Thanks to arduous protection, this island ecosystem remains one of the most intact in the world, revealing new and startling facets of behaviour and adaptation on a daily basis.
‘Since moving to New Zealand 28 years ago, I have returned yearly to continue photographing Galapagos, and each time I am wowed all over again.
‘This book is the culmination of half a century of endless amazement, documented visually to the best of my ability; it contains not just 50 years of Galapagos photography, but also my heart and soul.’ The new book is published by Bloomsbury.
A flightless cormorant sits on its nest, surrounded by starfish. The Galapagos species is the only variety of cormorant which cannot fly, confining it to the beaches of Isabela and Fernandina, but they dive to the ocean floor to feed on eels and octopus
Three Galapagos hawks spread their wings in flight. The native bird feeds on centipedes and locusts as well as snakes, rodents, lizards and young turtles. There are estimated to be only 150 breeding pairs in existence
A Galapagos sea lion playing with pufferfish. The sea lions are found all along the coastline of the Galapagos Islands and primarily prey on sardines, but they themselves are vulnerable to being hunted by sharks and killer whales
A Galapagos hawk feeds a hatchling sea turtle to a chick. The turtles are fast swimmers and can even sleep underwater for a few hours at a time, wildlife experts say. However, they can only stay underwater for a shorter period when being hunted
A Galapagos racer snake catches a blenny in its mouth in a tidal zone of the islands. The blenny is one of the small fish which the racer is known to hunt from rock pools and shallow waters