Galapagos giant tortoise

(Geochelone nigra)


Galapagos giant tortoise IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

The carapace of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise is highly domed, or saddleback shaped. The colour of the carapace, plastron, limbs, head and skin is dull-brown. The cheeks are sometimes lighter. This animal can be up to 1.1m long, with a weight of up to 250 kg, and can reach an age of over 100 years.

Did you know?
that giant tortoises, who can survive without eating for months, were once captured by sailors as a source of fresh meat at sea and to be used as living ballast in the hulls of their sailing ships.


Name (Scientific) Geochelone nigra
Name (English) Galapagos giant tortoise
Name (French) Tortue géante des Galapagos
Name (German) Galapagos-Riesenschildkröte
Name (Spanish) Tortugas gigantes de Galápagos
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Mathew Field



Range Ecuador (Galapagos)
Habitat Found in various regions on the islands, from sea-level to highest points of the islands
Wild population Approx. < 250
Zoo population 257 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Galapagos giant tortoise


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 43 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The Galápagos giant tortoise is rated vulnerable by IUCN and mainitaining an ex situ

reserve population has some merits.

The main purpose for displaying the species in zoos is, however, educational: It is one of the largest and heaviest chelonian species and it allows also for informing about speciation on the Galápagos Islands as was first discovered by Charles Darwin. There are eleven subspecies of giant tortoises on the Galápagos. Famous is, in particular, the subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdonii, as only one specimen is known to be alive: "Lonesome George" , a male, discovered in 1971 by goat hunters and then transferred to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where he was penned with two females of the subspecies, Geochelone nigra becki from Isabela Island, in the hope that he would breed and his genes would be retained in the resulting offspring. Unfortunately, these attempts have not been successful to date.

The species is also an excelelnt ambassador for the generally threatened fauna of the Galápagos Archipelago.