Tortoise thought to be extinct rediscovered after 113 years

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) A tortoise presumed to be extinct since 1906 has been rediscovered in Galápagos Islands, a remote volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, during an expedition.

The “Fernandina tortoise” was found after 113 years during an Animal Planet funded expedition for the series “Extinct or Alive.”

The channel said in a statement that Forrest Galante, biologist and host of the show, after two days of surveying crossed a 3 mile stretch of hardened lava flow to arrive at an area identified the previous day as a potential habitat that could support a population of Fernandina tortoise.

Galante located an active bedding site before finding the animal nearby. The tortoise was found sheltering from the equatorial sun, buried deep under a pile of brush.

“Since only one other specimen of this species has ever been found (a deceased male collected in 1906), we have never seen a female of the species,” Anders Rhodin of the Turtle Conservancy said in the statement released by Animal Planet.

“The photos from the team clearly show a moderately saddle-backed, old female about half to two-thirds the size of the known male. Pending genetic confirmation, this is almost undoubtedly the lost Fernandina Giant Tortoise,” Rhodin added.

The tortoise was described as being in good health, but underweight. Wildlife experts have taken the animal to a breeding centre on Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands.

The Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Centre has successfully bred and released 4,000 Galapagos tortoises and experts hope that the rediscovered tortoise may one day be able to breed.

“As the rate of animal extinction is widely debated, it gives us great hope that some species are surviving against the odds and that at Animal Planet we can do our bit to celebrate and support them,” said Susanna Dinnage, Global President at Animal Planet.

–IANS

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