Wildlife Wednesdays: Fernandina Giant Tortoise | weatherology°
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By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Feb 8th 2022

Wildlife Wednesdays: Fernandina Giant Tortoise

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is native to the Galàpagos Islands and is considered "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; some even feared it was extinct. Just a few weeks ago, Washington Tapia, director of the Galàpagos Conservatory's Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, and his team discovered one on the island of Fernandina!

The last confirmed sighting of the giant tortoise was last seen in 1906! Back in 2017, a team of rangers found feces in the park from this type of tortoise so its status was changed from "possibly extinct" to "critically endangered." On February 17, 2019, Tapia and his group of rangers were walking around the island, where they came across tortoise feces. Tapia noticed that the soil had been pushed aside and there were clear prints in the dirt, matching the same prints of the Fernandina Giant Tortoise. About 2.5 miles away, they spotted the tortoise, which was blending in the vegetation. 

The tortoise they found was a female, roughly 100 years old. The team took her to the breeding center on Santa Cruz Island due to the lack of food for her nearby. Also, if they left her, she would be hard to find again. Tortoises like her tend to move around a lot, and the island of Fernandina is over 230 square miles wide! Tapia and his team also came across more tracks just over a mile away from where they discovered the female. They think that, because of these tracks, they will find more of these giant tortoises. The team is expected to do another search later on this year. 

Tapia hopes that when the others are found, he can help restore the population of the Fernandina Tortoises and return them to their natural habitat. The tortoises can live to be 200 years old. So Tapia thinks, even with her age, the female tortoise has plenty of time to help her species make a comeback.

Of note, the Galàpagos Conservatory has raised more than 7,000 types of tortoises over the years in captivity, which then were released into the wild, saving several species from extinction.