Ecuadorian park rangers and an American conservation organization have found a turtle of which the species had been extinct for one century on one of the islands of the Galápagos archipelago.
According to a statement by Ecuador's Ministry of the Environment, the tortoise Chelonoidis phantasticus, a woman over a hundred years old, was found on a Sunday in a vegetation zone on the island of Fernandina. The discovery was made by a joint expedition between the management of the Galapagos National Park and the American organization Galapagos Conservancy. The trip to the island where the turtle was found was funded by Animal Planet, according to the spokeswoman for the Rosa León National Park.
Washington Tapia, director of Galapagos Conservancy and the biologist who led the research for five years, said that the turtle found "now will have food and water and can reproduce without any problem, but success will lie in finding a male."
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature had classified the tortoise Chelonoidis phantasticus as seriously threatened and possibly extinct.
The only other living member of the species was found in 1906 and since then expeditions have found bite traces and turtle droppings and there was a possible unconfirmed observation in 2009. However, the discovery of Sunday was the first confirmed observation and along with the possibility of more members of the species, the chance of reproduction has increased.
"They will need more than one, but the females can store sperm for a long time," says Stuart Pimm, professor of Ecology of Conservation at Duke University. "There can be hope," he added.
Tapia and the team that found the turtle brought the animal in a boat to the Giant Turtle Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island, where it will stay in a specially implemented pen for their stay. The researchers think there are more turtles of this species because they have found traces and droppings in other areas of the island of Fernandina, in the west of the archipelago.
Fernandina is the third largest island in the Galapagos and covers an area of 638 square kilometers. On the island is also the volcano La Cumbre, one of the most active in the world.
Galápagos has 13 main islands and at least 17 islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 kilometers from the Ecuadorian mainland. The archipelago of volcanic origin houses unique and endemic species in the world, especially giant tortoises, marine iguanas, penguins, cormorants without lungs and sea lions.
Galapagos was declared a natural heritage of humanity in 1979 in recognition of its unique species, animals and plants, terrestrial and marine that served as the basis for the English scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution of species.