Among the fauna of the Galapagos Islands we find a population of 200,000 to 300,000 giant tortoises on these islands. Does that sound like a lot to you? However, exploitation by whalers and privateers in the 19th century meant that this population was only 10 to 15% of the previous population.
For this reason, researchers are doing everything possible to ensure the reproduction of these turtles and prevent their extinction, as happened to Lonesome George. The latter is a tortoise, the last of its kind, the Chelonoidis abingdoni. Lonesome George, nicknamed the Pinta Island Tortoise, died in June 2012 at the age of 100, leaving no offspring despite the researchers’ breeding efforts.
But the researchers will try not to allow this sad ending again with a turtle, whose species was thought to be extinct due to the eruptions of the Fernandina volcano 112 years ago, but was found.
Fernanda is well descended from the lost species of giant tortoises
In fact, in 2019, researchers discovered a female turtle on Fernandina Island in the Galápagos during a joint expedition led by the Galápagos National Park Management and Galápagos Conversation. Believing this lone turtle was likely a giant turtle belonging to the lost species scientifically named Chelonoidis phantasticus, researchers named her Fernanda, LiveScience reports.
However, to confirm their belief, the researchers sent blood samples to geneticists at Yale University. Yale scientists compared Fernanda’s genes to those of the only turtle the researchers found on Fernandina Island, a male discovered in 1906. It has been found that Fernanda is actually descended from the same species.
This giant female tortoise was found in 2019 on the island of Fernandina, from which it takes its name. It belongs to a species that has long been thought to be extinct. (Photo credit: Galapagos Conservatory)
James Gibbs, vice president of science and conservation at the Galápagos Conservancy and turtle expert at the State University of New York, said the Fernandina Island giant tortoise is one of the Galapagos Islands’ greatest secrets. He adds, “We urgently need to complete the search for the island now to find more turtles.”
New and more extensive expeditions will be conducted from September
In fact, during the expedition, the researchers discovered traces of at least two other turtles that could also be descended from the same species as Fernanda. They particularly hope to find a male giant tortoise at the Galapagos National Park’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center in Santa Cruz who can mate with Fernanda. If they are reproducing well, conservationists will first raise the young turtles in captivity before returning to Fernandina.
Danny Rueda Cordova, director of the Galápagos National Park, nonetheless promised that his Galapagos parks and conservation team “will undertake a series of large expeditions to return to Fernandina Island in search of additional turtles. From September “.