Goodbye George, Hello Fernanda!

Thought to be extinct, the rediscovery of the Fernandina giant tortoise was celebrated globally. But the race is on to help the species avoid extinction.

SHANEY HUDSON

5 min read

'Fernanda' the giant tortoise was unexpectedly discovered on Fernandina Island during an expedition in 2019

Fernanda, the giant tortoise
Scientists conduct measurements and tests on Fernanda to confirm authenticity.

Scientists conduct measurements and tests on Fernanda to confirm authenticity.

Nicknamed Fernanda, the tortoise is thought to be around a hundred years old. Confirming she was indeed a Fernandina giant tortoise, and not a transitory species that floated from one island to another, involved a complex genetic investigation by scientists at Yale University, who will officially publish their results soon.

Fernanda was taken to Santa Cruz Island’s tortoise breeding centre and placed in quarantine. There were two motives for the decision: the first was that finding her again on the large island would be challenging, the other was that Fernandina Island has the most active volcano in the Galápagos. In fact, there have been over thirty recorded eruptions, the last in January 2020, and it’s for this reason there’s urgency to return to Fernandina Island and find more living specimens. Biologists from the Galápagos Conservancy suspect there are at least two more tortoises still on the island – and at most, ten.

Fernandina Island where the giant tortoise was found.

Fernandina Island where the giant tortoise was found.

Giant tortoise's playing on Galápagos Island.

Fernanda, the Giant Tortoise

Hurtigruten Expeditions aims to protect the delicate and beautiful ecosystem that we explore. Guests exploring with us will contribute directly to the protection of biodiverse forests in north-western Ecuador, named a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2018.