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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 02-20-2019, 06:10 PM   #1
Giant tortoise believed to be extinct for 100 years found alive

This is incredible news!

Giant tortoise believed to be extinct for 100 years found alive in Galapagos Islands

A giant tortoise believed to have been extinct for more than a century has been found in the Galapagos Islands.

The adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise was discovered by members of the Galapagos National Park and the US NGO Galapagos Conservancy.

The group was carrying out an expedition on the island of Fernandina in the western Ecuadorian region of the Galapagos Islands.

The discovery was announced by the Ecuadorian environment minister Marcelo Mata, although no other details have been revealed yet.

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is reportedly one of 15 giant tortoise species in the Galapagos.

In 2015, Ecuador proudly announced the discovery of a new species of tortoise on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos.

It was named Chelonoidis donfaustoi in honour of Fausto Llerena who took care of 'Lonesome George', a male Pinta Island tortoise and the last known individual of its species.

Lonesome George died in 2012, according to local media.

Scientists believe that tortoises first arrived in the Galapagos two to three million years ago after drifting 600 miles from the South American coast on vegetation rafts or of their own accord.

They were already large reptiles before arriving on the Islands.

Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos for five weeks on his second voyage and they appeared in his writings, playing a key role in the development of the theory of evolution.

Another article at has a video of the female tort.
Old 02-21-2019, 03:15 AM   #2
Well, I hope they can keep members of the California Academy of Sciences away from it.

This is a read I've seen before many moons ago, and reading it now just gets my blood to boiling.

Especially the field notes documenting their finding and "skinning" the tortoises.

Some excerpts:

Field Notes*—
September 18, 1906.—Sailed this morning for Abingdon,
where we anchored at 12 :30 on the south side of the island,
which appears to be the highest.
September 19, 1906.—Went up the mountain after tortoises. We commenced to get into good tortoise country at about
seven or eight hundred feet elevation, the beginning of the
green zone. There is not much earth, the ground being
nearly all lava, but there is plenty of water and cactus. The
top of the mountain is covered with fog most of the time,
and everything is very wet. We saw fresh signs of tortoises soon after getting into the green zone, and soon found a trail. This we followed, and came upon a tortoise on the top of a
large rock which contained a few small water holes. It is capital country for tortoises; we did not, however, look farther, but skinned and carried out our first find. Ochsner went
up the mountain a little higher, and came upon another large
male. There are trails all around the mountain side. Beck
found a male on the southern slope of the mountain, lower
down. He also found the fresh trail of another tortoise, but
failed to find the tortoise. We expect to go in tomorrow and
get the tortoise Oschner found. The one we got out today was a very fat male. Its stomach contained cactus. September 20, 1906.—Spent the day getting out the tortoise found by Ochsner. Saw several trails but no new tortoises. Today Beck found the one the trail of which he saw
yesterday, but it is too far in to get out. Expect tomorrow
to get out the one he found yesterday. The stomach of the one skinned today contained cactus and grass. September 21, 1906.—Went in after the tortoise which
Beck found September 19. It was about a mile or two above
the green zone on the southern slope of the mountain. Up
there it is continually raining or foggy throughout the morn-
ing, but clears off in the afternoon. It is capital tortoise
country, everything being green, with plenty of water and
cactus. The three tortoises taken were very fat, and showed
the effects of good living. We saw no other signs, and they
probably are very rare on Abingdon Island. The stomach of
the one collected today contained grass and cactus. Beck
also found an old shell and a few bones in a cave, where the
tortoise probably had fallen in and died. We carried these
down, and they are in fairly good condition.

================================================== =======

Field Notes—Dec. 1, 1905.—Sailed for Duncan Island in the
morning, and anchored ofif the northeast side of the island at dusk. Light winds all day.
Dec. 2, 1905.—Skinned two turtles and a tortoise which
Hunter brought down from the edge of the crater. Beck
went ashore looking for tortoises, and found twelve, which
he tied up. Monday we start to skin them and get them to the vessel. I shall clear things up somewhat before going on Tuesday to camp with Beck. Beck found the skull of a tortoise in good condition, and brought it down.
Dec. 4, 1905.—Beck went into camp today on the top of
the crater. I go up tomorrow to skin tortoises. Stewart,
Hunter, and Ochsner brought down a tortoise each today ; two
males and a female.
Dec. 5, 1905.—Finished the skinning of the three tortoises
brought down yesterday. All were very fat, and had very
long necks for their size. The female had eggs in yolk and
one nearly developed.
Dec. 6-9, 1905.—I was in camp skinning and carrying tortoises. We had our camp in a valley near the top of the
island just south of the large crater. The country is very
rough, and covered in most places with thick brush and thorn
bushes. No tortoises were found in the crater, but Beck saw
the tracks of one there. We found several old males, whicb
were brought down alive, and which will be kept if possible.

================================================== =======

Field Notes—Hood Island was reached September 24, 1905.
Various parts of the island were explored during this visit which ended October 2. On September 27, Mr. Beck found some fragments of tortoise bones on the western end of the
island. They were lying on the ground among the lava blocks
and were exposed to the sun. These fragments were the only
signs of tortoises. Hood Island was visited again from January 31 until February 7, 1906. A piece of tortoise carapace
and some old droppings were found near the top of the island. On June 23, 1906, the anchor was again dropped in Gardner
Bay. Exploration revealed no evidence of tortoises until June
26, when, as Mr. Slevin records: [Mr. Ochsner and I] went
into the interior at the east end of the island and picked up some lizards, which are abundant everywhere. We reached an
elevation of about 300 feet and, in a grove of cactus trees about two miles inland from Gardner Bay, ran on to a tortoise. The country here is very brushy, and the ground is covered with small rocks, so that no trails can be seen anywhere. The tortoise was lying in the shade of a large cactus
at the edge of a thick patch of brush. It appears to be an
adult female. No other signs were encountered and it is only
great luck to find a tortoise, as there are no trails to follow. June 27, 1906.—Went again after tortoises to the same
country we visited yesterday. Mr. King had the good fortune
to find a tortoise, this time in the thick brush near the edge of
a large open area. It appears to be an adult female. Beck
went over to the northwest end of the island and says he got
into good tortoise country. He saw no signs of living tortoises but found some good bones.
June 28, 1906.—Went in after tortoises again but failed to
find any. We however found a very fresh sign ; but the brush was so thick that we could not find the tortoise, even after a
long search. Examined some fresh droppings, and found it contained the red bark of the cactus and coarse grass. The
tortoises evidently feed poorly, as the goats, which run thick
all over the island, keep the cactus eaten up as soon as it falls. June 29, 1906.—Still searching for tortoises but find no
June 30, 1906.—Went in again after tortoises. No luck. July 2, 1906.—Beck was in after tortoises, and found one
small one about four miles inland from Gardner Bay. Evidently they have been well cleaned out.


July 30-August 4, 1906.—Went in after tortoises about five miles northwest of Sullivan Bay. The country is extremely
rough—the worst we have encountered since we arrived in the
islands. The lava-flows are all comparatively recent, and many
places have no vegetation whatever. There is a valley opposite our anchorage which runs into the interior, and is fairly thick
with cactus, small trees, and shrubs. We went up this valley
about a mile, and saw our first signs of tortoises. There is no earth whatever here; everything is lava, and it is impossible to do any trailing. King, Beck and I looked over the
surrounding country for three or four hours. We saw fresh
signs, but found no tortoises. I returned to the ship, while
Beck and King went farther up to camp. When I went in to the camp the next day, Beck had found two large male tortoises about five miles up the valley, and in better, or very good,
tortoise country. We found plenty of earth and cactus here
and everything in favor of finding tortoises. King had one of
the males partly skinned, so I helped him finish it, and we
brought it out to camp. Beck went over toward the main
mountain, and covered lots of country, finding two more males
and a female. He went over the next day and skinned the
female and another small one which he found on the way, and,
with the assistance of Ochsner and Hunter, who came in to help us carry, brought them to the camp. King and I took
the first male, which we had skinned, part way down to the
vessel. The country was so rough and hard to get over that our shoulders became so sore that we could not hold the tortoise up any longer, so had to leave him in order to get to the
beach by dark. The rest of the party, who were to help us
out, missed us on the way, so King and I had to go it alone. They found the tortoise on the trail and, carrying it the rest of the way, reached the beach just at dusk. These tortoises
have the heaviest shells and bones of any taken by us. The old
males were not black (as Porter described them) but the fe- males seem to be quite black. They are all very fat, more so than any we have seen yet. The fat is of a rich yellow color
and looks almost like butter. The two males taken are some- what unlike in shape. The other two males Beck found are
far over toward Jervis Island, and it will be impossible for us to get them out. It was very difficult to get out the ones we did. No wonder people don't find tortoises on James
King got the measurements as well as possible, but it is impossible to get accurate measurements for the reason that a
tortoise can throw a person in any direction he pleases with one of his legs. I got the measurements of the second male.
Beck skinned the females and no measurements were taken.
Beck found that these females contained large yolks, but there were no signs of shell on any of the eggs as yet. We saw no
signs of any nests, so probably the breeding season commenced
during June and July.
================================================== ===
Old 03-09-2019, 06:33 AM   #3
I whole heartedly agree with you. Years ago I read about this unconscionable barbarity in Pritchards Turtle and Tortoise encyclopedia which I bought as a birthday present to myself. This is when I became a great fan of these special tortoises.

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