The single female giant tortoise discovered during a 2019 expedition to Fernandina Island in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador, has been confirmed as being from a species which scientists believed had died out more than 100 years ago.
1. Genetic proof
Genetic tests were used to confirm the species of the tortoise, with scientists taking samples from the female and comparing them to the remains of a male from the species Chelonoidis phantasticus. Before the discovery, the last sighting of the species had been in 1906 by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences who visited the Galápagos Islands to survey flora and fauna. The scientists sighted a male tortoise which they took to the academy’s herpetology department, and it was samples from this specimen which enabled geneticists from Yale University to determine that the female is in fact from the Chelonoidis phantasticus species, also known as Fernandina giant tortoise.
¡Se creía extinta hace más de 100 años! Hemos reconfirmado su existencia. La tortuga de la especie Chelonoidis phantasticus fue encontrada en #Galápagos. Empezar con tan buenas noticias nuestra gestión es una linda coincidencia. La esperanza está intacta. #JuntosLoLogramos pic.twitter.com/KOmBMLIfEY— Gustavo Manrique M. (@GustavoManriq_M) May 25, 2021
2. Exciting news
The discovery that the species is not extinct, 115 years after the last sighting, is a major celebration and Ecuador is thrilled with the good news. Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique tweeted his excitement, announcing, “It was believed to have gone extinct more than 100 years ago!” and adding that “Hope is alive.” The newly discovered female Fernandina giant tortoise is estimated to be more than 100 years old and is currently in a breeding centre on Santa Cruz Island. However, scientists have also discovered prints and faeces on Fernandina Island which they believe suggest the presence of more of the species still living in the wild. The Director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, announced that an expedition will be launched to the Island in the hopes of locating more members of the Chelonoidis phantasticus species.
🚨 BREAKING: The female Giant Tortoise found on Fernandina in 2019 during an expedition of Galapagos Conservancy and @parquegalapagos has been confirmed as a Fernandina Giant Tortoise, a species believed to be extinct for more than 100 years! Read more at https://t.co/tsXuZluVGy. https://t.co/VMDu7vRdYP— GalapagosConservancy (@SaveGalapagos) May 25, 2021