Researchers have just discovered a Fernandina giant tortoise — a species believed to have gone extinct over a century ago.
Found alive and well on the Galápagos Islands, the single female represents Chelonoidis phantasticus, a species that hasn’t been observed since 1906.
A team of scientists from the California Academy of Sciences located the tortoise on an expedition to survey the flora and fauna of the Galápagos in 2019. Geneticists at Yale University compared the female’s DNA to the remains of a male of the species to confirm the finding.
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“It was believed to have gone extinct more than 100 years ago! We have reconfirmed its existence…. Hope is intact,” said Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique in a tweet. Danny Rueda, Director of Galápagos National Park, later said that an expedition will be carried out on the island in an attempt to locate other members of the species.
The 100+ year old female is now residing in a protected breeding center on Santa Cruz Island in hopes that a male can be found for mating.
You may recall a similar tale — the last remaining Pinta Island giant tortoise known as “Lonesome George” passed away in 2012 after researchers spent three decades attempting to find him a mate. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful, and there are now no remaining Pinta Island tortoises.
Giant tortoises in the Galapagos are the largest living tortoises on the planet. Unfortunately, they’ve been wiped out by hunting, volcanic eruptions, and introduced species that prey on their hatchlings.