Galapagos Tortoise - Largest TortoiseBy: Jason Abels – Assistant Director www.tigerhomes.org Animal Sanctuary
elephantopus) is by far my
all time favorite species of tortoise. Both David and myself
have been fortunate to work with them in the past and they
are truly remarkable animals!
TO SEE ANIMAL WEBCAMS
As I said earlier while discussing
Sulcata, most people feel or expect tortoises
to be nothing more than dumb “Rocks With Legs”!
This could not be further from the truth, especially when Galapagos
Tortoises are concerned. This is not to say that all tortoise
species are intelligent, just that some are more so than others,
at least in human terms and perceptions. These amazing reptiles
have been known to come when called and even to know their
own names. The Sanctuary's group of Large
Sulcata Tortoises also
seem to show this intelligence but I am not sure they are just
conditioned to this as a behavior vs. actual intelligence?
on the subject of Tortoise Intelligence,
a long time friend and herpetologist made this comparison between
the intelligence of
the Galapagos Tortoise (the World's
Largest Tortoise Species)
and that of the Aldabra
Tortoise (the World's 2nd Largest Tortoise
Species - see also side-by-side). He explained that on a particular
cold day, he could call an entire group of 15 Galapagos Tortoises
or more to walk over to him and into a specially designed heated
barn type shelter. On that same night, with a group of long
term captive Aldabra Tortoises; he basically had to put each
animal on a dolly to place them inside the heated enclosure.
Then to add insult to injury, the majority of them left the
enclosure only to be stuck back out into the cold. So there
you have a
side-by-side intelligence comparison between tortoise species
;-) Please keep in mind that when I make reference to these
animals as intelligent, I am not condoning Pet
Galapagos Tortoises. Like
any “Exotic Animal”, Galapagos Tortoise Husbandry
requires extremely specific and expensive care and should be
left to experts and professional Zookeepers.
Animal Sanctuary does not currently house either
the Galapagos or the Aldabra Tortoise at this time. Perhaps one
day we will offer a Tortoise Cam down
the road? Regardless of anthropomorphic interpreted intelligence,
I could sit back and
observe Large Tortoises roaming and interacting amongst each
other in spacious naturalistic habitats all day! Tortoises are
definitely the “ZEN” of animal tranquility J.
As stated above, the Galapagos Tortoise
(Geochelone elephantopus) is universally known to
be the World's Largest Tortoise species.
The record for the World’s Biggest Tortoise or should I
say “Heaviest Tortoise” is
well over 900 pounds with a shell length just shy of 54inches.
These animals obviously
come from the Galapagos Islands off of the Ecuadorian coast.
Charles Darwin made
the Galapagos famous with his Theory
Of Evolution and his famous Darwin
Finches. In fact, the World's most respected
Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Facility is located on the Galapagos
Islands and is appropriately named the Darwin
Research Center Station.
One little known fact that many people
may not be aware of is that there are actually a lot of Subspecies
of Galapagos Tortoises.
In fact, at one time or another (many have gone extinct), there
have been at least one described “Subspecies” of
Galapagos Tortoise for each individual island in the chain. On
the Island of Albemarle for instance there still exists 5 subspecies,
each with their own characteristics, primarily size, weight and
shell shape. Each subspecies of Galapagos Tortoise is classified
as an Endangered Species. It is estimated that there are less
then 9000 wild individuals remaining plus an addition 1000 or
so Captive Tortoises scattered throughout US zoological facilities.
A major factor in managing both Wild and Captive Galapagos Tortoises
is their slow maturity rate. Galapagos Tortoise Sexual
Maturity rate is slow like their nature. It takes a male 35 years or more
before he can produce Viable Sperm. Similarly, it takes the females
20 years to reach their sexual maturity.
Like most reptiles, the sex of a Baby
Galapagos Tortoise is determined by the Incubation Temperature
of its egg. Most facilities
including the Tiger Homes Sanctuary incubate Tortoise
86 degrees. This temperature produces more females then males,
which makes sense especially when an Endangered Species is concerned.
Generally, incubation temperatures above 84 degrees will produce
primarily but not all female hatchlings, while temperatures between
84 & 82 produce primarily but not all males. If you look
at Pictures Of Galapagos Tortoises of various ages, you will
notice that the Baby Tortoises look almost identical to their
adult counterpart. This is not always the case as many Baby
Turtles or tortoises look nothing like their mature relatives.
Captive Galapagos Tortoises thrive if
cared for properly. They require huge grazing areas and lots
and lots of space. They need
shelter from the sun, rain and wind and a quality diet. A typical
Galapagos Tortoise Diet would include loads of fresh Opuntia
Cactus Pads, grasses, fruits and vegetables.
Like the Sulcata tortoise, the Galapagos are “Eating Machines”.
I often refer to the Sanctuary's group of large Sulcata’s
as “Solar Powered Lawn Mowers”; if the sun is shining,
their mouth is chewing J.
Before I go, I want to leave everybody with
one more scary fact concerning this truly amazing Giant
Tortoise. The largest concentrated
populations of about 3200 wild Galapagos Tortoises live on a
daily basis with the potential threat of immediate extinction
due to Volcanic Eruptions.
Just think about it, in a blink of an eye, a third of an entire
species could be wiped out. This
is just one reason why Captive Breeding Programs are imperative
for all Endangered and Threatened
Once again, David and I along with the
entire Tiger Homes team thank you for visiting our Animal Sanctuary.
We hope you acquired
an interest to protect all animals and wild places. We further
invite you to view the Sanctuary’s World-renowned Animal
Cams. Take the time to check out our famous White Tiger
Web Cams, and our newest Leopard
Without you our mission to instill an interest in wildlife protection
could not happen. Please spread the word!