Giant Tortoise Believed to be Extinct For 112 Years Found on Galápagos Island

Despite its huge size, a giant tortoise on the Galápagos Islands somehow remained out of sight for 112 years. The tortoise of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species was believed to be extinct, until a single female was found on Fernandina Island—the third-largest island of the Galápagos Islands—in Ecuador on July 10, 2019.

On the 13 Galapagos Islands, many varieties of tortoises thrive among the other animals, flora, and fauna. However this particularly unique species was last reported 112 years ago and thought to be lost forever. The female tortoise—who is estimated to be more than 100 years old—was found during a joint expedition between the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy. Yale University Scientists identified the tortoise as the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus, after comparing her DNA to a specimen extracted in 1906, when the last of the species was seen.

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

Now, conservationists are in search of more giant tortoises, and hope to find a male mate in order to save the species from extinction. Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique tweeted about the Fernandina giant tortoise (translated from Spanish): “It was believed to have gone extinct more than 100 years ago. We have reconfirmed its existence!” He adds, “Hope is alive.” Scientists have even found prints and feces on Fernandina Island which indicate that there could be more members of the critically endangered species left in the wild.

A giant tortoise of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species was thought to be extinct 112 years ago, but a female was recently found on a Galápagos Island.

Galápagos Tortoise

Photo: Stock Photos from Helge Zabka/Shutterstock

h/t: [CBS News]

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