In Focus – Giant Galapagos Tortoise

Status: Vulnerable  

Geographic region: Galapagos Islands (East Pacific Ocean)  

Meaning of name: Saddle Tortoise (Spanish)

Habitat:Coastal fringes and high lands of the Galapagos Islands 

Threats:Introduced feral animals  

Left in wild: Approximately 19,000        

One of the longest living animals on earth – Galapogas Tortoise, Perth Zoo
There are 14 known sub species of the Galapagos Tortoise of which 10 still live in the wild. Research is being conducted to identify specific genetics within population groups. Recently a sub species called the Floreana Tortoise, thought to be extinct for over 150 years, has possibly been rediscovered on the Wolf Volcano on the Galapagos Islands.
 
The Galapagos Tortoise is the largest tortoise in the world, growing to a length of 150cm. They are also the longest living vertebrae in the world and can live up to 100 plus years in the wild and have been known to live over 150 years in captivity.
 
Galapagos Tortoises’ have a very slow metabolism and can go long periods without food. When they do eat they enjoy flowers, native fruits and leaves. The males can be very territorial especially during the mating season.
Galapagos Tortoise Perth Zoo

Stu’s Zoo Pick for Galapagos Tortoise

With so many zoos participating in successful breeding programs and repopulation schemes of the Galapagos Tortoise, I thought I would focus on some of the more famous individuals. Here are a few that have touched many hearts – to become priceless ambassadors for their species.

Harriet (Oldest recorded of her species)

 

Harriet was hatched around 1830 on the Galapagos Islands and was collected by Charles Darwin to be taken back to England in 1835. In1842 Harriet arrived in Brisbane and lived in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens for over 100 years. Harriet spent the last two decades of her life at Australia Zoo in Queensland, where she became somewhat of a national treasure. In 2005 Harriet turned 175 years old and there was a huge celebration including thousands of party guests, tortoise shaped birthday cake and a huge international media contingency. Harriet was happiest when munching on her favourite red hibiscus flowers. Harriet passed away on 23rdof June 2006 leaving behind many admirers of her species and an impressive life story. 

 

Harriet’s Memorial Plaque at Australia Zoo

 

Lonesome George – (Last of his sub species) 
 
George was rescued from Pinta Island in 1971 after a wild goat population decimated the food source on the island. The island was meticulously searched for any other surviving species of the Pinta tortoise with no results. The Pinta tortoise a sub species of the Galapagos Tortoise was declared a functionally extinct species with George being the sole survivor.
 
Although many efforts were made to mate George with other female sub species they were all unsuccessful. George passed away in 2012, found by his caretaker of 40 years. He died of heart failure and as the last of his species. George was estimated to be over 100 years old. 

 

NJ – (First Galapagos Tortoise hatched in Australasia)

NJ was hatched at Western Plain Zoo, Dubbo, Australia in 2011 and was the first hatchling born in captivity in Australasia.  NJ’s gender will not be known for several years (hence the obscure name).

NJ’s Mother was 90 at the time of NJ’s birth. As a hatchling NJ weighed 87 grams and will grow up in 30 years to a massive 256 kilos.

Best Zoos to see Galapagos Tortoise

Perth Zoo, Australia Zoo

 

 

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