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Giant Galapagos Tortoise
Giant Galapagos tortoises are probably the most famous inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands and are the origin of the islands' name.  
Galapagos Tortoise 

Giant Galapagos Tortoise

Photo by Roz Gordon, taken on Santa Cruz Island at the Chato Tortoise Reserve.
There are various different subspecies of Galapagos tortoise unique to particular islands or even to specific regions of one island.  Some of the subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoises were made extinct by the whaling fleet in the 19th Century.  The sailors took hundreds of thousands of the Galapagos tortoises to eat, because the giant creatures could remain alive, upside down, for a considerable time on board the whaling ships, to be used for fresh meat even after weeks at sea.  In this way the numbers of giant Galapagos tortoises was reduced from around 250,000 to just fifteen thousand or so now.
 Galapagos Hawk landing on Giant Galapagos Tortoise

A Galapagos Hawk about to land on a giant Galapagos Tortoise

Giant Galapagos tortoises can live for 150 years or more and may weigh as much as 250kg.  The most famous, Lonesome George, lives on the island of Santa Cruz, at the Charles Darwin Research Station.  Lonesome George is thought to be the only surviving Pinta tortoise.  The research station has a programme to care for the baby Galapagos tortoises until they are large enough to have a good chance of survival on their own, in order to boost the population of these giant land tortoises.
Galapagos giant tortoise  Giant Galapagos tortoise eating bananas

Galapagos Giant Tortoises eat plants and fruits

The giant Galapagos land tortoise is vegetarian, eating various different types of plants including prickly cactus.
For more information about the Galapagos tortoise, evolution or Charles Darwin, see our suggested  Galapagos Islands background reading.

Galapagos Tortoise Photo Gallery
Main image of the giant Galapagos tortoise by professional photographer Roz Gordon - 
Wildlife photos from the Galapagos Islands

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