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Animal Spotlight: The Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos tortoisesWhen the topic of conversation turns to The Galapagos Islands, the first image that comes to mind for many is of Galapagos giant tortoises. And for all the wonderful things about this place we call home, we have to admit that the tortoises are among the best! These gigantic reptiles are the largest species of tortoises still in existence, and no matter how many times we see them, they fill us with awe every time.

Among the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, Galapagos tortoises can live more than 100 years in the wild. Chances are good that if you spy a young tortoise, he or she will be here after you have left this earth! Currently listed as a vulnerable species, we hope that more people encountering these beautiful creatures on our Galapagos tours will result in a greater appreciation for their majesty, and commitment to protecting them. Their closest living relative is the Argentine tortoise, a significantly smaller tortoise that is just as adorable!

Galapagos tortoises perfectly capture the spirit of these islands, enjoying a largely calm and peaceful existence, soaking up the sun in the early morning hours, and devoting quite a bit of time to foraging. When your daily food needs are in the 70-80 lb. range, eating has to be a top priority! That said, these unique animals can survive 18 months with no food or water, relying on their body’s reserves.

Galapagos tortoises are a quiet animal, saving their voices for times of conflict with another tortoise, mating, or those unfortunate situations where they’ve landed on their backs and have to wriggle to right themselves. In situations such as this I imagine them as a grumpy old man or woman, shaking their cane at those kids to get off their lawn!

While Galapagos tortoise can eventually reach a size of 800 lbs. or more, they start off life oh-so-tiny and too cute for words. If you’re fortunate enough to come across a tiny tortoise, be sure to appreciate its adorableness for all it’s worth. And if you’re wondering if that tortoise is a boy or girl, if it’s less than 15 years old, there’s no way of knowing! Unlike humans, cats, dogs, and countless other animals, a tortoise’s gender cannot be determined until they are halfway through their teen years, and they do not reach their full size and sexual maturity until they are 40 and flirty!

We could honestly go on for days about this marvelous animal, and we’d love to share more insight into their amazingness during one of our Galapagos tours. In the meantime, you can learn more on the insightful Wikipedia page for Galapagos tortoises!