By Sheena Ignacio, InternDid you know that the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, were named after the Galapagos tortoise, the largest tortoise in the world? Spanish sailors who founded the islands in 1535, referred to them as galapago meaning “saddle,” in resemblance to the shape of the tortoises shell. These gentle giants can weigh anywhere from 60 to 700 pounds, reach lengths of four feet, and have a lifespan of 100 years. The largest Galapagos tortoise ever recorded weighed 550 pounds and measured in at five feet long and the oldest was said to be 152 years young. Diet for these creatures include 70 to 80 pounds of vegetation such as leaves, cactus, vines, grass, and fruits. Although they consume vast amounts they can go without food or water for one year. This was the very reason Galapagos tortoises were captured and is the very reason why they are now endangered.
During the 16th, 17th, and 18th century sailors from all over the world hunted and captured roughly 100,000 Galapagos tortoises because of their lengthy shelf life and need for fresh meat. Today, only 15,000 of these magnificent creatures flourish within the islands and are now protected under Ecuadorian law. Although they are no longer hunted, native and non-native predators such as the Galapagos Hawk, dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and cattle threaten their population growth. Efforts are being put forth to protect these giant Galapagos tortoises through institutions such as the Charles Darwin Research Foundation. So, if you want to support the Galapagos tortoises spread the news today.