by 👩💻 Alice Monroe
The animal world is truly fascinating. It’s tragic that there are so many species which are dying out, and so many that we have never had the pleasure of meeting during our lifetimes. There’s plenty that humanity can do to protect endangered species, of course – but for one species of giant tortoise, it appears a phoenix has risen from the flames.
The Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus, has been listed as ‘possibly extinct’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for decades. However, a female of the species has miraculously been found alive in the Galapagos – and we’ve not seen a tortoise of this species since 1906. It’s highly probable no one alive today has even seen one in the flesh. That’s incredibly exciting news!
The female tortoise recently spotted is a resident of the island of Fernandina, and is thought to be over 100 years old, according to Gizmodo. Animal Planet, working alongside Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy, tracked down the endangered female, on an island where it has long been feared that an active volcano may have been responsible for the deaths of all other members of the species.
Giant tortoise feared extinct found in Galapagos islands [video]
Animal Planet TV host and biologist Forrest Galante led a team across Fernandina Island for two days, traversing a three-mile lava flow which had solidified over the years. This, crucially, led Galante and his crew towards a habitat on the island long thought to have been perfect for the tortoise species to thrive in.
“The reason no sightings have been made is that Fernandina is an extremely sparse, remote, and harsh environment, more or less completely inaccessible to most people,” Galante advised Gizmodo in conversation. “Additionally, no one from the Galapagos National Parks really believed in its existence, so no resources were put forward to look for the animal.”
“Fortunately, myself and the two scientists I went with still held out hope, and that led to the finding of a super small isolated patch of suitable habitat and eventually the animal.”
The female tortoise is said to be underweight but in good health, and has since been relocated to the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island. Scientists are now hopeful that, given this recent discovery, a potential mate may even be found to help bring the species back to us. It’s an amazing find.