Giant Tortoise Thought To Have Gone Extinct A Century Ago Found On Galapagos Island

Fern, who was found on Fernandina Island, can still mate and save her species … despite probably being 100 years old.

What the shell?

It seems a species of giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands that was considered extinct over a century ago is still kicking, the nonprofit Galapagos Conservancy said in a press release published Tuesday. 

The turtle was found in 2019 on Fernandina Island during a joint expedition between the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy. Scientists at Yale University have now confirmed that the reptile, dubbed “Fern,” is a Fernandina giant tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus — a species last reported 112 years ago and “long considered lost forever,” the press release said.

Fern, the Fernandina giant tortoise.
Galapagos Conservancy

The Fernandina giant tortoise was believed to have become extinct due to volcanic eruptions, USA Today reported.  

Scientists hope that Fern will not face the same fate as “Lonesome George,” the last Pinta Island tortoise who died in 2012 without any offspring. In order to save Fern’s species, the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy are now launching an urgent expedition to Fernandina Island to find her a mate.

Scientists seem confident they’ll find Fern a special friend, though abundant lava flow on the island makes it challenging to locate animals, according to National Geographic.

But the magazine noted that the conservationists who found Fern came across other tortoise tracks in soil not far from where she was discovered.

Scientists are also hopeful that Fern can still breed, despite estimations that she’s roughly 100 years old. Giant tortoises can live to be 200 years old, National Geographic said. So despite her advanced age, Fern might still be able to become a mom. 

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