See Endemic Tortoise sub-species in the Galapagos Islands

Sep 7, 2018

The giant Galapagos Tortoises are amongst the most famous endemic species in the World and unique to the Galapagos Archipelago. It’s thought that giant tortoises once thrived on all the continents of earth; only to have been hunted to extinction almost everywhere else except on the Galapagos.
The islands themselves were named after the tortoises found here. The word Galapagos coming from the Spanish word ‘galapago’, which means saddle (named after the shape of their distinctive large shells). It’s thought that there are as few as twelve and as many as fifteen sub-species of giant tortoise left on the islands. Owing to the age of individual animals and similarities of the species, it can be hard to distinguish them from each other.

One fact that we do know for sure is that one sub-species did pass into extinction. It happened with the death of Lonesome George, the last remaining Abingdon Island tortoise, in 2012.

Let’s examine one of the most important remaining sub-species of the Galapagos tortoises :

Volcan Alcedo Tortoise

It is estimated that there are around 20,000 Galapagos tortoises left on the islands in total; with around of 6,000 of these belonging to the Volcan Alcedo sub-species. These animals are native to the slopes of the Alcedo volcano on Isabella Island. They exhibit a surprisingly low level of DNA, which may be the direct result of a volcanic eruption that took place there around 100,000 years ago.

If you would love to see these magnificent animals in semi-wild state and learn about their conservation, let us help you arrange a fantastic Galapagos Cruise by filling out our Contact Form for personalized assistance today.
 

Chatham Island – San Cristobal Island

With just under 2,000 remaining, these animals have had to be protected within a fenced off habitat. This was originally to protect them from feral dogs in the 1970s. They can grow to 1.8 metres in length and weigh in at around 400 kgs – making them true giants, in every sense of the word.

Volcan Wolf

Lives on the slopes of the Wolf Volcano, and also on Isabella (making this perhaps the best Galapagos Islands to visit for tortoise lovers). This sub-species has adapted to the harsher conditions higher up the slopes. This is thought to have hindered the main predators and allowed them to survive in an otherwise inhospitable environment.

Indefatigable Island Tortoise

Living on the island amongst the scrubby hills, these animals have blacker shells and comparatively shorter necks. However, there is some debate about whether this is just one species or a sub-set of three different types. Scientists are still discussing the matter.
Isabella and Santa Cruz Island are two of the best Galapagos Islands to visit to see tortoises; but a number of the other islands are also home to sub-species. To see them all, a boat tour aboard a vessel like the Galapagos Sea Star Journey will let you take it all in. Check out this tour with Santa Cruz Island tortoise visits.
 

Take a look of these tour programs:

1. Peru Tour: Cusco, Sacred Valley and Arequipa Tour
2. Wildlife Tour: Amazon Cultural tour
3. Galapagos Land Tour: Nine days Galapagos Tour
4. Galapagos Cruise Itinerary:  Seven Days Luxury Boat Western Islands Expedition
5. Central Islands Itinerary: Amazing Nine Days East & Central Islands Boat Journey

Andre Robles
Andre Robles
Andre Robles is an expert in everything South America, his passion for the region and exploring off the beaten path makes his travel writing both useful and interesting. He has written for several mainstream publications and you can read his guides on Ecuador, Peru, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Andre is also an accomplished photographer and has been recognized as one of the best wildlife photographers in the region, his photos have been featured in National Geographic and other journals. As a travel agent Andre specializes in curating unique experiences, crafting tailor made itineraries and helping visitors make the best of their vacation, always putting the experience first
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