After 113 years, an adult female Chelonoidis phantasticus has been discovered in a remote part of the third largest island in the Galápagos archipelago, Fernandina.
The environment ministry in Ecuador released the news in statement here, announcing the discovery was made on 17th February 2019 by a joint expedition of the Galapagos National Park and the US-based Galapagos Conservancy.
The Chelonoidis phantasticus is also known as the Fernandina giant tortoise and has been listed as a critically endangered and possibly extinct species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The last time a member of this species was seen alive was in 1906.
This particular female tortoise is estimated to be at least 100 years old and was transferred to a designated pen in the Giant Turtle Breeding Center on Santa Cruz island.
“This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find other turtles, which will allow us to start a breeding programme in captivity to recover this species,” said Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park.
Further studies will indicate with certainty whether this tortoise is of the Fernandina Island species. The team who found her also believe there are other tortoises in the area due to the evidence of tracks and feces.
Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University told The Guardian:
“They will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time…There may be hope.”