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The Galapagos tortoises are the namesake of the Islands

Galapagos giant tortoises - Galapagos turtles

No animal is more synonymous with the Galapagos Islands than Galapagos Giant tortoisethe giant tortoise. Indeed, the saddle-back shape of the shell in many of the tortoise races reminded the early Spaniards of a type of riding saddle called "galapago", and this term is also applied to the tortoises. Hence, by calling the islands the Galapagos, we are, in essence, calling them "The Islands of the Giant Tortoises"!, The giant tortoise is the symbol of both the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service. In the form of one particular individual, Lonesome George, the sole surviving member of the Pinta Island race, the giant tortoise is the symbol of extreme fragility of the Galapagos islands, and a reminder of the need for vigilence and conservation.

Voyagers travel offers several travel programs in the enchanted isles, every itinerary includes the possibility to encounter giant tortoises in their habitat. We organize custom Galapagos tours for individual travelers and groups.

It was also the giant tortoise that tipped Darwin off to the incredible diversity of the Galapagos fauna and flora. In the "Voyage of the Beagle," he noted:

"I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkableGalapagos Charles Darwin feature in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice-Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell from which island any one was brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention to this statement, and I had already mingled together the collections from two of the islands. I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case. It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are hurried from it; but I ought, perhaps, to be thankful that I obtained sufficient materials to establish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of organic beings."

Charles Darwin, 1845

Of the 15 races of Galapagos tortoises, four are extinct. Galapagos Charles Darwin stationBecause of breeding and release efforts on the part of the Charles Darwin Research Station, most of the remaining races are holding their own. However, there is still on-going poaching of tortoises by local residents. One race, that from Pinta is represented by a single surviving male, aptly named Lonesome George. The 15 races are:

 Galapagos giant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus)

 elephantopus Floreana (extinct) 
 not described Santa Fe (extinct) 
 elephantopus phantastica Fernandina (extinct) 
 elephantopus wallacei Rabida (extinct) 
 elephantopus hoodensis Espanola
 elephantopus abingdoni Pinta (Lonesome George - extinct)
 elephantopus ephippium Pinzon 
 elephantopus chatamensis San Cristobal
 elephantopus darwini Santiago
 elephantopus vicina Volcan Cerro Azul Isabela
 elephantopus guntheri Volcan Sierra Negra, Isabela
 elephantopus vandenburghi Volcan Alcedo, Isabela
 elephantopus microphyes Volcan Darwin, Isabela
 elephantopus becki Volcan Wolf, Isabela 
 elephantopus porteri Santa Cruz

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