Galápagos tortoise, feared extinct, spotted for the first time in more than 100 years

More than 100 years since it was last seen by humans, a species of giant tortoise has been found on the Galápagos island of Fernandina.

by Matt Binder Mashable Feb 24, 2019

According to the government of Ecuador, an adult female Chelonoidis phantasticus, more commonly known as the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, was spotted on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. This species of tortoise was last seen alive in 1906. The International Union for Conservation of Nature had previously listed the turtle as critically endangered and possibly extinct.

The tortoise is said to be in good health, but underweight. It is believed that she is about 100 years old. According to the Turtle Conservancy, she’s “about half to two-thirds the size” of the only other Fernandina Giant Tortoise that’s ever been found, a deceased male discovered 113 years ago.

The expedition brought park rangers and biologists across a “three mile stretch of hardened lava flow,” where experts believed the tortoise could possibly inhabit. Led by tortoise scat, the team uncovered a bedding site and found the giant tortoise buried deep under a pile of brush, sheltering itself from the sun.

The giant tortoise has been relocated to the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz.

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image: IUCN Red List

There’s possibly more good news as well. Based on findings of tortoise scat and track marks on Fernandina Island, there’s hope that this specific animal isn’t the only Fernandina Giant Tortoise living on the island.

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The Fernandina Giant Tortoise was located through a joint effort by the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and the U.S.-based Galápagos Conservancy’s Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI).

The search for the tortoise on Fernandina, the third largest of the Galápagos islands, was funded by Animal Planet for the series Extinct or Alive. The network says the episode documenting the whole expedition will premiere in summer 2019.

Funding is already being pledged for future expeditions to find a mate for the female tortoise that could help conserve the critically endangered species.

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(header image: A photo of the newly discovered adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise.)

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