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Tortoise Not Seen for Over 110 Years Found on Galapagos Island

In this photo released by the Galapagos National Park, a Chelonoidis phantasticus tortoise rests at Galapagos National Park in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Galapagos National Park via AP)
Tortoise Not Seen for Over 110 Years Found on Galapagos Island
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A kind of tortoise not seen in more than 110 years has been found in the Galapagos Islands.

A female from a species known as the Fernandina giant tortoise was discovered last weekend on the island of Fernandina.

The Galapagos is a group of 20 islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador.

The islands belong to Ecuador and the tortoise discovery was announced by the country’s ministry of environment. It said that the creature was identified by researchers from the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy, a group based in the United States.

Wildlife experts had thought the Fernandina giant tortoise no longer existed.

The researchers said they believe the adult female tortoise is more than 100 years old. The animal was taken to a breeding center for giant tortoises on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says the only other living member of the species was found in 1906. Since then, researchers have found some evidence of Fernandina giant tortoise activity. There was an unconfirmed sighting in 2009. But the latest find was the first new confirmed sighting of the species.

Investigators believe there may be more members of the species on Fernandina Island because of animal droppings and tracks they found.

Danny Rueda is the director of Galapagos National Park. He says the discovery provides new hope for possible successful breeding. "This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find other turtles, which will allow us to start a breeding program in captivity to recover this species," he said in a statement.

Fernandina is the third-largest island in the Galapagos. A volcano there is one of the most active in the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said it feared the species was likely lost to repeated volcanic lava flows “that nearly cover the island.”

Ecuador’s Environment Minister, Marcelo Mata Guerrero, said the government fully supports additional research and development efforts aimed at saving the species.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press and online sources. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

species n. a group of plants or animals that share similar qualities

breed v. to reproduce

tracks n. markings left on the ground by a person, animal or vehicle

encourage v. tell or advise to do something

lava n. melted or liquid rock from a volcano