Giant tortoise believed extinct for 100 years found in Galápagos

James Marshall
February 21, 2019

An adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus, possibly more than 100 years old, was found on Fernandina Island by a joint expedition of the Galapagos National Park and the US -based Galapagos Conservancy, Ecuador's Ministry of the Environment said in a statement Wednesday.

This photo released by the Galapagos National Park shows a Chelonoidis phantasticus tortoise at the Galapagos National Park in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019.

The minister said that the animal had been believed extinct for over 100 years, but did not provide any further details.

An adult female believed to be more than a century old was seen alive on Sunday during a joint expedition by the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy, the Ecuadorian government announced.

The solitary member was found on Fernandina Island after an expedition by the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), a project implemented by the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy.

Surveys of remote areas on Fernandina Island in 1964 "documented several large tortoise scats" and some tortoise bite marks, while a 2009 plane survey "yielded a possible unconfirmed sighting of a tortoise", IUCN said.

Investigators think there may actually be more members of the species on the island due to the presence of tracks and scat on the island.

It is the youngest and most volcanically active of all the Galapagos islands.

The nameless tortoise was transported by boat to the Giant Turtle Breeding Centre on the archipelago's Santa Cruz.

"These sightings and signs, though needing verification through more extensive surveys, indicate the possibility that the species may remain extant in exceedingly small numbers", IUCN said.

The Galapagos archipelago includes 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean roughly 621 miles (1,000km) from the Ecuadorian coast.

The Galapagos archipelago hosts unique species and wildlife whose characteristics helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution.

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is one of 14 giant tortoise species native to the Galapagos Islands, most of which are endangered. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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