Great news for the animal world. The tortoise that was found alive in Galapagos is of a species that was believed to be extinct.
The female specimen was discovered during a 2019 expedition to Fernandina Island. The last time this species was observed was in 1906. Back then, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences sailed to the Galapagos Islands to conduct a comprehensive study of flora and fauna.
To prove the link, scientists took samples from the female to compare to the remains of a male from the species Chelonoidis phantasticus. It was these samples that allowed Yale University geneticists to determine 115 years later that the female, also known as Fernanda’s tortoise, actually belongs to the genus Helonoidis fantastikus.
“One of the greatest mysteries of the Galapagos has been the giant tortoise of Fernandina Island. The rediscovery of this lost species may have happened just in time to save it. Now we urgently need to complete the search to find other turtles” said Dr. James Gibbs, vice president of Science and Conservation for the Galapagos Conservancy.
Currently, this turtle is in a breeding center on the island of Santa Cruz but the director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, said that an expedition would be launched to the island of Fernandina, in order to find other members of this species.
Scientists have found prints and feces on Fernandina Island which they think indicate that there are more individuals of the species left in the wild. The current population of giant tortoises from various species is estimated at 60,000 individuals, according to data from the Galapagos National Park.
One was known as “Lonesome George,” a male Pinta Island tortoise, the last known of the species, who died in 2012 without leaving any offspring.
According to the Galapagos Atlas released by the Charles Darwin Foundation, 15 species of Galapagos giant tortoises have currently been described, and that they inhabit 10 of the 13 islands of the archipelago.