On Tuesday, February 19, the Ecuadorian Minister of the Environment announced the discovery of a female turtle belonging to an unobserved species for more than one hundred years.
The news is yet to be confirmed by scientists, but the Ecuadorian Minister of the Environment announced Tuesday, February 19 the discovery of a female giant turtle species Chelonoidis phantastica to the Galapagos.
NOTICIA MUNDIAL | In the Fernandina isla – Galapagos #, the expedition liderada por @parquegalapagos there @SaveGalapagos, localizaron a specimen (hembra adult) of the species of tortuga Chelonoidis Phantasticus, that was extinguished hace más of 100 años. pic.twitter.com/51HbqWcwMG
– Marcelo Mata (@Marcelo_MataG) February 19, 2019
► Is it exceptional?
If the turtle belongs to this species, yes. Chelonoidis phantastica is endemic to Fernandina Island, in the Galapagos Archipelago, off Ecuador. The last scientific expedition to have seen a living representative dates back to 1906. It is therefore more than a hundred years that no one knew if there remained these giant tortoises.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), however, considered the species "critically endangered" and not totally extinct. A helicopter flight in 1964 revealed the presence of turtle excrement and bite marks in cacti. Then in 2009, another flight had caught the animal, unable to confirm its species. Finally, in 2013, turtle footprints were reported.
► Why do not we know exactly how many of these turtles are left?
Because access to the islands, integrated into a national park of Ecuador, is restricted. The Galapagos are a sanctuary for biodiversity. Thousands of tourists who visit the archipelago each year only arrive in small, highly defined areas so as not to disturb the fauna and flora. Not to mention that the island of Fernandina is home to an active volcano, whose eruptions hamper scientific research. Finally, a turtle, even giant, is about a meter. Compared to the 640 km² of the island, the search for the carapace in the ferns is difficult!
► George the lonely could he have avoided dying alone?
George is a famous turtle because he was the last representative of his kind, Chelonoidis abingdonii. It is not the same species as found on the island of Fernandina. With his death in June 2012, so the whole of George's species died out. Hybrids of Chelonoidis abingdonii have been discovered on another Galapagos island, but they are not 100% of the same species as George.
In Galapagos, the return of George the "Solitaire"
► How many turtles are there in the Galapagos?
Genre Chelonoidis includes a little less than twenty turtles, including the fifteen giant tortoises Galapagos. Some species are definitely extinct as Chelonoidis niger and Chelonoidis abingdonii, the species of George the solitary. According to the IUCN Foundation, twelve giant species of the archipelago are still alive. All are considered endangered, the smallest populations making a hundred individuals (Chelonoidis hoodensis on Española Island) and the larger ones a few thousand (as Chelonoidis vandenburghi on Isabela Island).