Giant tortoise thought to be extinct 112 years ago found on Galapagos Island

The search is on for a mate for a giant tortoise thought to be extinct a century ago. 

Earlier this week, scientists at Yale University confirmed a giant female tortoise found in the Galapagos Islands was last reported 112 years ago and thought to be “lost forever,” Galapagos Conservancy said in a press release. 

The tortoise was discovered on Fernandina Island during a 2019 expedition of the Galapagos National Park Directorate and Galapagos Conservancy. 

Scientists identified the tortoise as the Fernandina Giant Tortoise or the Chelonoidis phantasticus species. 

“One of the greatest mysteries in Galapagos has been the Fernandina Island Giant Tortoise. Rediscovering this lost species may have occurred just in the nick of time to save it.,” said Vice President of Science and Conservation for the Galapagos Conservancy Dr. James Gibbs.

Planning is underway for expeditions to find a male mate to save the species so the tortoise doesn’t meet the same fate as “Lonesome George,” a Pinta Island tortoise, who died in 2012 without any offspring and was declared extinct. 

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise species “was believed to be extinct due to volcanic eruptions in past centuries. 

The Galapagos Islands are home to many unique species of animals not found anywhere else in the world and was made famous by Charles Darwin who visited the islands in the 1830s. 

In March, almost 200 tortoises younger than three months old were found by Galapagos Islands airport staff wrapped in a plastic bag in what officials say was an attempt to smuggle the animals off the islands. 

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