Fernanda the Giant Tortoise has given researchers new hope after DNA sequencing proved that her species is not extinct but still lives on. Jill Langois of National Geographic reports that Fernanda was discovered in 2019 on the Galápagos Island of Fernandina. Yale University researchers embarked on a years-long journey to see if she was a lone specimen or hinted at something greater.
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Finally, researchers concluded that Fernanda is actually related to another specimen, a male Chelonoidis phantasticus species discovered in 1906. The 1906 sighting was made by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, according to BBC News. This discovery has huge implications because the species of Giant Tortoise was thought extinct for the past century.
Additionally, further expeditions on Fernandina Island revealed tracks and scat of at least two or three more Giant Tortoises.
The revelation has left researchers and conservations jubilant. Environment Minister Gustavo Manrique tweeted that “Hope is alive” and James Gibbs, Vice President of Science and Conservation for the Galápagos Conservancy issued an important statement:
“To avoid the same tragic fate as Lonesome George – the last Pinta Giant Tortoise who died in 2012 – an urgent expedition to Fernandina Island will be launched by GNPD and Galapagos Conservancy to find a mate and save the species… The Fernandina Giant Tortoise species was believed to be extinct due to volcanic eruptions in past centuries. The current population of Giant Tortoises throughout the Islands is only 10-15% of its historical numbers, estimated between 200,000-300,000 individuals.
“But there is hope… Galapagos Conservancy has launched an urgent appeal at galapagos.org/savethefernandinatortoise to raise funds to undertake the expedition to find these and perhaps other tortoises to save this species from the brink of extinction.”
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, Giant Tortoises can live up to 100 years, weigh up to 700 pounds, and grow to be 4 feet long.
You can find out more about the fund to save the Fernandina Giant Tortoise here.