The Giant Tortoise is probably the most famous resident of the Galapagos Islands and gave the archipelago its name – Galapago is the Spanish name for tortoise.
Galapagos Giant Tortoise
They are the world’s largest tortoises with some specimens exceeding 1.5m in length and weighing up to 400kg, with a lifespan of over 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152.
Galapagos Giant Tortoises are thought to belong to one species, with 14 different sub-species. The tortoises are now listed as endangered and are strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government. An estimated 100,000 tortoises were killed by pirates, whalers and merchantmen in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and non native species such as feral pigs, dogs, cats and rats continue to threaten their food supply and their eggs. Today four sub species are extinct, and there are only about 15,000 tortoises left.
The Giant Tortoises live on six islands in the wild and the scientists of the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz Island have been collecting and incubating eggs collected from the wild and then repatriating them to their home islands.