The Galápagos tortoise
The is the largest living species of tortoise, this animal can reach a length of almost 6 feet and weigh up to 880 pounds! This reptile can live to be 100+ one of the longer living animals on the earth! The tortoise is native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago outside of Ecuador.
These tortoises are herbivores that consume a diet of cacti, grasses, leaves, and berries. They will eat up to 70-80 pounds of food A DAY! They have also been documented to feed on Hippomane mancinella (‘poison apple’), and that’s pretty bad ass to be able to eat poison apples. Watch out snow white.
Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. these numbers got so low because people were hunting for tortoise meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals such as rats, goats, and pigs. 7 subspecies of the original 10 survive in the wild.
in efforts to preserve these animals, organizations have been wiping out the unnatural animals like goats completely out of these islands so that these tortoises’ food sources are not extremely depleted by these alien animals [a more modern problem as to their lower population numbers.. poor things are just starving to death not being hunted]. During the 20th century many of these turtles were bred in captivity and released back into the wild and it is estimated that numbers exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century [as of 2009]. With slow growth rate, late sexual maturity and island endemism make the tortoises particularly prone to extinction without the efforts of conservationists. Even with this awesome rebound in population to be a little bit closer to the number the tortoise population should be this species is still classified as Vulnerable
These tortoises are gentle giants that really need people’s help to stay at a healthy population rate. The Galápagos giant tortoise is now strictly protected and is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.