Giant Tortoise Species Thought To Be Extinct Found Alive In The Galapagos Islands

by : Julia Banim on : 20 Feb 2019 18:29

A giant species of tortoise believed to be long extinct has been rediscovered in the Galapagos Islands.


It had previously been believed that Fernandina Giant Tortoise – scientifically known as the Chelonoidis phantasticus species – had been driven to extinction over a century ago due to over hunting.

Indeed, just 10 species of giant tortoise were believed to have survived the colonists who hunted and ate the animals during their travels in the Galapagos Islands.

However, defying all odds, an adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise has been found by Galapagos National Park members and the NGO, Galapagos Conservancy, MailOnline reports.


These wildlife lovers came across the miraculous animal during an expedition on Fernandina, an island located within the western Ecuadorian area of the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuadorian environment minister Marcelo Mata has announced the fascinating discovery with a tweet, much to the delight of environmentalists. However, no further details have been given as of yet.

Writing on their website, the Galapagos Conservancy stated:

While thought to be extinct due to volcanic eruptions in past centuries, there have been anecdotal observations indicating that there may indeed still be a very few left on the island.

In the past, there have been rumors of the species’ survival. However this tortoise is reportedly the very first of its kind to be sighted by humans since April 1906, when a specimen was collected by the California Academy of Sciences during an expedition.

Surveys in 1964 of remote parts of Fernandina reportedly found ‘several large tortoise scat’ as well as some tortoise bite marks.

An International Union for Conservation of Nature airplane survey conducted in 2009 reportedly ‘yielded a possible unconfirmed sighting of a tortoise’, with scat and footprints also discovered in 2013. However, this was not enough to confirm the survival of the species.


As reported by The Straits Times, a 2017 assessment from the IUCN listed the Fernandina Giant Tortoise as being ‘Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)’.

According to The Straits Times, the IUCN had made the following comments after concluding their 2017 assessment:

These sightings and signs, though needing verification through more extensive surveys, indicate the possibility that the species may remain extant in exceedingly small numbers.

Now a living, breathing Fernandina Giant Tortoise has shown her wrinkly, adorable face, heralding cheering news indeed for tortoise lovers.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Animals


MailOnline and 3 others
  1. MailOnline

    Giant tortoise species thought to have been hunted to extinction by humans more than 100 years ago found ALIVE in the Galapagos

  2. The Straits Times

    Giant tortoise believed extinct for 100 years found in Galapagos

  3. @Marcelo_MataG/Twitter


  4. Galapagos Conservancy

    Galapagos Conservancy