The Giant Galapagos Tortoise is an icon of The Galapagos Islands. Living for hundreds of years, these hardy giants have survived through many challenges, including the biggest challenge of all, humans. From the 17th-19th century, they were hunted by seafarers of all shapes and sizes, from merchants to pirates, and some species were driven to extinction.
In 1906, we said goodbye to one of the once-fifteen Giant Galapagos Tortoises – The Fernandina Tortoise, Chelonoidis phantastica. This species was declared extinct more than 100 years ago, however, a recent discovery has brought a lot of hope into the hearts of conservationists worldwide. On May 25th, 2021 The Galapagos National Park declared that new DNA evidence proves that the Fernandina Tortoises live on!
In 2019, researchers encountered a lone female tortoise on Fernandina, and later, DNA analysis from Yale University confirmed suspicions that this female was indeed a Fernandina Tortoise.
Though it was a single female, there is hope, especially since there are other signs of tortoises on the island. Danny Rueda, director of the National Park says that “This discovery, without a doubt, renews our hope of recuperating this species.” In a BBC interview he also states that there will be expeditions to try and find more Fernandina Tortoises.
Good news in conservation gives us all a bit more hope, and it seems that The Galapagos Islands always have something new to offer; which is why our goal is to always keep exploring and keep protecting this incredible place.