A massive tortoise belonging to a species that was thought to have been extinct over a century ago has been discovered in the Galapagos Islands, paving the way for the recovery of the species through captive breeding programs.
The shocking discovery of the adult female, who belongs to the species Chelonoidis phantasticus, was made on Sunday during a joint expedition of the pristine Fernandina Island by the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conversancy group, according to environmental minister Marcelo Mata.
On Tuesday, Mata attracted the world’s attention when he tweeted photos of the huge pink-snouted and smooth-shelled tortoise.
NOTICIA MUNDIAL | En la isla Fernandina – #Galápagos, la expedición liderada por @parquegalapagos y @SaveGalapagos, localizaron un espécimen (hembra adulta) de la especie de tortuga Chelonoidis Phantasticus, que se creía extinta hace más de 100 años. pic.twitter.com/51HbqWcwMG
— Marcelo Mata (@Marcelo_MataG) February 19, 2019
The tortoise had only been sighted once before in 1906 by researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, according to the Galapagos Conservancy, which said:
“While thought to be extinct due to volcanic eruptions in past centuries, there have been anecdotal observations indicating that there may indeed still be a very few left on the island.”
Genetic research will be carried out on the creature to confirm that she does, in fact, belong to the species Chelonoidis phantasticus, expedition leader Washington Tapia said, according to El Telegrafo.
The discovery could lead to a comeback of the species, Galapagos National Park director Danny Rueda said in a statement from the Ministry of the Environment.
“This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find other turtles, which will allow us to initiate a breeding program in captivity to recover this species,” he noted.
— El Telégrafo Ecuador (@el_telegrafo) February 20, 2019
Ecuador’s authorities believe it to be possible that other members of the tortoise species may be found on the island due to the tracks and droppings found on other parts of Fernandina.
There had long been “anecdotal observations indicating that there may indeed still be a very few left on the island,” according to the Galapagos Conservancy website.
The Galapagos Islands host vast amounts of flora and fauna that are in constant danger of extinction.
During the nineteenth century, the archipelago off the coast of mainland Ecuador served as the research site of British scientist Charles Darwin, whose research of the various species living there formed the basis of the theory of evolution.