A Giant Tortoise Thought to Be Extinct for 100 Years Is Rediscovered in the Galapagos


The Galapagos giant tortoise supposedly went extinct a century ago. But conservationists were pleasantly surprised when Ecuador confirmed that a giant tortoise discovered in 2019 in the Galápagos Islands was Chelonoidis phantasticus, the very same species declared extinct a hundred years ago. 

The giant tortoise was found on Fernandina Island during a joint expedition between the Galápagos Conservancy and the Galápagos National Park. Scientists from Yale University helped with the DNA analysis of the samples sent by the Conservancy. 

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“Yale University revealed the results of genetic studies and the respective DNA comparison that was made with a specimen extracted in 1906,” the Galápagos Park said in a statement. The turtle, pictured below, is thought to be 80 to 100 years old. 

Rediscovered After A Century's Extinction: Chelonoidis phantasticus

Photo by Galapagos National Park Directorate | Handout.

There are a number of giant tortoise species in the Galapagos archipelago, many of which are listed as endangered. The Galapagos National Park says there are at least 60,000 giant tortoises left in its islands. In 2012, Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise named for being the last of its species, died without leaving any progeny. 


Fernandina Island (Center)

Photo by NASA | Public Domain.

Currently, the Galapagos National Park is readying a second expedition to Fernandina Island to search for more C. phantasticus. Fernandina Island is a volcano island and is considered the youngest island in the archipelago and has been largely left untouched. Its virgin state gives conservationists hope that the island holds more promise that extinct and undiscovered species are making a last stronghold on the volcano island. The volcano’s last eruption in 2009 threatened the survival of the island’s flora and fauna. 

Apart from the rediscovered “extinct” tortoise found on the island, there are also marine iguanas, the flightless cormorant, penguins, pelicans, and sea lions. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of SPIN.ph as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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