Giant tortoise thought to be extinct 112 years ago found on Galapagos Island

Asha C. Gilbert for USA TODAY

27 May 2021

This giant tortoise found in Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park in 2019 is part of a tortoise species thought to have been extinct for 112 years. USA Today, Storyful.

The search is on for a mate for a giant tortoise thought to be extinct a century ago. 

Earlier this week, scientists at Yale University confirmed a giant female tortoise found in the Galapagos Islands was of a species last reported 112 years ago and thought to be “lost forever,” Galapagos Conservancy said in a news release

The tortoise was discovered on Fernandina Island during a 2019 expedition of the Galapagos National Park Directorate and Galapagos Conservancy. 

Scientists identified the tortoise as the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or the species Chelonoidis phantasticus. 

“One of the greatest mysteries in Galapagos has been the Fernandina Island Giant Tortoise. Rediscovering this lost species may have occurred just in the nick of time to save it,” said  Dr. James Gibbs, vice president of science and conservation for the Galapagos Conservancy.

Planning is underway for expeditions to find a male mate to save the species so the tortoise doesn’t meet the same fate as Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise who died in 2012 without any offspring and was declared extinct. 

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise was believed to have become extinct because of volcanic eruptions in past centuries. 

The Galapagos Islands are home to many unique species of animals not found anywhere else in the world and were made famous by Charles Darwin, who visited in the 1830s. 

In March, almost 200 tortoises younger than 3 months were found by Galapagos Islands airport staff wrapped in a plastic bag in what officials say was an attempt to smuggle them off the islands

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Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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