The Fernandina Tortoise was previously thought to be extinct, but recent sightings of a female provide renewed hope for conservation of the species.
The Fernandina Tortoise (Chelonoidis
The last Fernandina Tortoise was spotted in 1906 during a large expedition carried out by the California Academy of Sciences. Since then, they have been declared Critically Endangered (possibly extinct) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Fernandina is the most volcanically active of the Galápagos Islands which is believed to have been a factor in the tortoises’ decline. In April 2009, La Cumbre Volcano erupted on Fernandina Island and a small team was sent by plane to report the impacts. While in flight, the team saw what they thought might be tortoises, but due to the hazy conditions, they were unable to make a confirmation. Island Conservation Restoration Specialist, Victor Carrion, was part of the team 10 years ago and shared his experience:
There was little visibility of the ground due to the ash emanating from the volcano, but within minutes it was possible to see three black bulges, like rocks but they had a different brightness. I suspected that they were land tortoises but unfortunately could not be observed again despite several attempts of the pilot.”
This is not the first time a tortoise has been rediscovered on Galápagos. Floreana Tortoises were driven to extinction on Floreana Island by hunting and invasive rats, which feed on the small hatchlings or so researchers thought. 20 years ago, a few individuals were found on Wolf Island, a small volcanic island 200 miles away. DNA showed these individuals were Floreana Tortoises giving hope for their return home after invasive species have been removed from the island.
Hopefully, after DNA testing, the Fernandina Tortoise will show the same and provide a renewed sense of hope for the Galápagos.
Source: The Independent
Featured Photo: Two Galápagos Giant Tortoises Credit: A pair of Galapagos Tortoises. Paul Krawczuk
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