Scientific Name: Geochelone elephantopus
The Galapagos Tortoise can measure up to six feet from head to foot and weigh as much as 600 pounds. Female Galapagos Tortoises are generally a little bit smaller than their male counterparts, but they are no less impressive. This land giant moves at a speed of only 0.16 miles per hour, not surprising considering the "luggage" they are carrying around. Though the average lifespan of the Galapagos Tortoise is around 100 years, the oldest Giant Galapagos Tortoise on record was 152 years old. Some older individuals that have reached 200 years have also been reported, but this has not been verified. The longevity of this species is not surprising since it takes 40 to 50 years for the Tortoise to even reach adulthood!
The Galapagos Tortoise will be ready to reproduce at 20 to 25 years of age. At this time, the mother will dig a deep nest and lay 2 to 16 eggs. She will then leave the eggs to incubate after reburying them. Four to eight months later, the eggs will hatch, and it may be another month before the hatchlings dig out of the nest.
The Galapagos Tortoise is one of the most impressive and is the largest of all tortoises.
The Galapagos Tortoise is listed as an endangered species so they cannot be taken from the wild. The best way to contribute to the survival of this magnificent reptile would probably be to look into ways in which you can contribute to the Charles Darwin Foundation. This foundation has established a research center and rescue station where Galapagos Tortoise eggs are incubated and then the hatchlings are raised until about five years old when they can defend themselves against predators that man introduced to their natural habitat on the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Tortoise sports the name of the islands it inhabits. The islands received their name when Spanish explorers came across the islands and saw the massive amount of tortoises roaming the islands. The word "Galapagos" means tortoise in Spanish, so it is easy to see how the relationship was established. Explorers were astounded by the massive size of these tortoises, and it didn't take them long to realize that they made a good source of meat. They also had the ability to survive long periods without food or water. This was definitely an unfortunate circumstance for the Galapagos Tortoise and as more humans visited the islands, they brought with them other animals, which often preyed upon eggs and young tortoises. The population of Galapagos Tortoises dropped from 250,000 to only 15,000 remaining today, with 3,500 of the remaining tortoises being introduced by centers such as the Charles Darwin Foundation. With continued support, the Galapagos Tortoise will hopefully see days of prosperity again.
The Galapagos Tortoise is an herbivore, feeding primarily on bromeliads, water ferns, leaves, prickly pear cactus, fruits, and grasses.