For the first time in more than 110 years, a living Fernandina Giant Tortoise was spotted on the Fernandina island of the Galapagos. The species was thought to be extinct, so the appearance of this reptile has excited researchers around the world.
The last reported sighting of the Fernandina Giant Tortoise (chelonoidis phantasticus) was in 1906. Since then, researchers have only been able to find secondary evidence of its presence on the island: tortoise scats, footprints, and bite marks on cacti. Due to the active volcano on site, it could be possible that the tortoises succumbed to the frequent lava flows of the island. Last Sunday was concrete proof that the species still exists, and researchers are hopeful that more tortoises can make a comeback on the island.
Ecuador’s environment minister confirmed that the tortoise was found last Sunday. The specimen is an adult female believed to be around 100 years-old. She was found during an expedition by the Galapagos Parks authority and the Galapagos Conservancy group. The tortoise has been listed as “Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)” under the International Union for Conservation Nature’s list of at-risk species, so to find that there’s living evidence that they’re alive is an amazing discovery.
The tortoise was transported to a breeding centre on Santa Cruz Island, and she will remain there in a special pen. While they only found one tortoise, female tortoises can store sperm for a long time, so there is hope that they will be able to breed more of the species. It will be a long process, but researchers have hope that the tortoise population on the island will increase once again.
The Galapagos archipelago is a host to a variety of unique flora and fauna. Charles Darwin made many discoveries there, and the islands inspired him to develop his theory of evolution. Similar creatures lived on the different islands, but each one was perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of their respective islands. Now, with the help of modern technology and knowledgeable scientists, these species can be protected from both natural and man-made threats to their lives.