A member of a giant tortoise species once thought extinct was recently spotted on a remote island in the Galapagos. Scientists discovered the female adult tortoise, commonly referred to as a Fernandina giant tortoise, off the island of Fernandina. They believe she is well over 100 years old.
The group removed the tortoise from the island and brought her to a customized breeding facility on Santa Cruz Island. The scientists were part of a collaborative expedition funded by the Galapagos National Park and an environmental group called Galapagos Conservancy. According to The Guardian, the Fernandina giant tortoise is on the endangered species list and was thought to have gone extinct. The team believes there are more endangered species of tortoises on the island based on feces and tracks they uncovered, though exact numbers remain elusive.
Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years
The last time a member of this species was spotted in the wild was way back in 1906. Since then, scientists have discovered traces of the giant tortoise on the island but were unable to spot one in its natural habitat. If they can find more individuals, the conservationists hope to breed them on Santa Cruz to boost population numbers.
“They will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time,” Duke University’s Stuart Primm noted. “There may be hope.”
Being the third largest island in the Galapagos, Fernandina is host to the La Cumbre volcano, which remains highly active to this day. In fact, experts believed that giant tortoises on the island were killed off because of the recurring lava flows from the volcano, which almost blankets the island in its entirety.
There is no telling if scientists will discover more giant tortoises in the years to come, but the recent sighting is promising. The Galapagos islands, of course, are famous for their diversity of wildlife and were labeled a World Heritage Site in the late 1970s. Hopefully, the team will uncover additional giant tortoises to help get the species back on the map.
Via The Guardian
Image via Garrondo