The Galápagos Tortoise, which has been thought to be extinct for 112 years, need a mate to help save the species.
Scientists have discovered a live relative of a tortoise species previously considered to be extinct.
The discovery of a female Giant Tortoise on Fernandina Island in Ecuador, which is part of the Galápagos Islands, has sparked hopes that the species can be saved if researchers can locate a mate for the animal.
Fern, the tortoise, was discovered by researchers from the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) and the Galápagos Conservancy in 2019.
They assumed Fern was linked to the Fernandina Giant Tortoise species at the time, which had been extinct for 112 years. However, they need proof.
They took a sample of the animal’s blood and submitted it to Yale University geneticists, who confirmed that Fern is related to the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, also known as Chelonoidis phantasticus. This species is only found on the island.
While hunting decimated giant tortoise numbers in general in the nineteenth century, eruptions from the island’s active volcano are thought to have nearly wiped out Chelonoidis phantasticus.
Now, scientists from the GNPD and the Galápagos Conservancy are scrambling to prepare a series of significant missions to Fernandina Island in the hopes of finding more members of the species.
There are indications that there are more. During the searches that uncovered Fern, park authorities discovered tracks and feces left behind by at least two additional tortoises on the Fernandina Volcano.
“Rediscovering this extinct species may have occurred just in the nick of time to save it,” James Gibbs, vice president of science and conservation for the Galápagos Conservancy at the State University of New York, said in a statement. We must now conclude our search of the island for additional tortoises.”
If a male is discovered, researchers intend to pair them up in the hopes of breeding. Any young tortoises would then be reared in captivity before being returned to the island.
The situation recalls that of Lonesome George, a male giant tortoise who died in 2012 as the last known member of the species Chelonoidis abingdoni, also known as the Pinta tortoise. The species was hunted to dwindling numbers in the 1800s.
After Lonesome George was discovered in 1971 by Hungarian. This is a brief summary.