Galápagos Tortoise Thought To Be Extinct For Over 100 Years Has Been Found

By Bill Galluccio

May 26, 2021

Scientists have confirmed that a giant tortoise found on the Galápagos Islands is from a species that was thought to be extinct for over 100 years.

The female Fernandina giant tortoise was discovered in 2019 by a team of researchers from the Galapagos Conservancy and the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment during an expedition to Fernandina Island. To confirm that it was a member of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus, geneticists from Yale University compared it to a male specimen discovered on the island in 1906. That was the last time that anybody had seen the tortoise species.

"It was believed extinct more than 100 years ago! We have reconfirmed its existence. The tortoise of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus was found in #Galapagos," Ecuador's Environmental Minister Gustavo Manrique tweeted. "Hope is intact."

The female turtle, which is believed to be over 100 years old, was taken to a breeding center located on Santa Cruz Island. Officials said that the researchers found evidence that other members of the species are still living in the wild on Fernandina Island and hope they can find her a mate.

"One of the greatest mysteries of the Galápagos has been the giant tortoise of Fernandina Island. The rediscovery of this lost species may have happened just in time to save it," said Dr. James Gibbs, vice president of Science and Conservation for the Galapagos Conservancy. "Now we urgently need to complete the search to find other turtles."

Photo: Getty Images

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