A photo of a tortoise in the Galapagos might not seem like a big feat, except for the fact the Fernandina tortoise has been believed to be extinct since 1906.
The female Fernandina tortoise was discovered under a pile of brush on a volcano surrounded by hardened lava. Experts said she is healthy but slightly underweight due to lack of vegetation in the area.
“I believe she can become an icon of wildlife hope,” said biologist Forrest Galante. “She’s the rarest tortoise, if not animal, in the entire world and one of the largest discoveries in the Galapagos in the last century.”
Galante, who hosts the television show "Extinct or Alive" on Animal Planet, said in a statement that he has always believed the elusive tortoise was still around somewhere.
He and his team traveled to a remote volcanic island in the Galapagos last month to test out his theory.
After miles-long hike through a volcanic terrain, the team positively identified droppings from the Fernandina tortoise and soon later found the elusive creature buried under a pile of brush, sheltering itself from the sun.
“As a biologist and someone who has dedicated my life to the pursuit of animals believed extinct, this is by far my greatest scientific accomplishment and proudest moment,” Galante said.
The Fernandina tortoise was later rehomed to the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center at nearby Isla Santa Cruz, where experts will take care of her and potentially reintroduce the species if they track down a male Fernandina tortoise.
This expedition was organized by Animal Planet in coordination with biologist and "Extinct or Alive" host, Forrest Galante, as well as Galapagos National Park Ranger, Jeffery Malaga, and the Director of the Galapagos Conservancy, Washington Tapia.