New Species of Giant Tortoise Discovered in Galápagos Islands

Giant tortoises are classified as endangered. (Photo: Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures/Corbis)

A new species of giant tortoise has been discovered in the Galápagos Islands.

The Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise lives on Santa Cruz island, and scientists predict that there are about 250 in existence.

For comparison, the Western Santa Cruz Tortoise lives on the same island and has a population of about 2,000.

Until now, it was assumed that both tortoises belonged to the same group, but after genetic analysis was conducted by Yale University biologist Gisella Caccione, it was determined to be a new species.

Even more surprising, the closest relative of the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise is not the species on the same island, but a species from the neighboring island to the east, San Cristobal.

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Conservationists are excited about this new find, and hope that the naming will help to increase efforts to protect the new species.

“Its low numbers, limited geographic range, and reduced genetic diversity make it vulnerable. As a newly recognized species, it will now receive the attention needed to ensure its survival,” said Caccione.

The official name of the new species is Chelonoidis donfaustoi, after park ranger and conservationist Fausto Llerena Sanchez.

WATCH: Up Close and Personal With the Galapagos Tortoise

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