Meet your neighbours: The Galápagos giant tortoise

April 17, 2019

This year, on April 22, we’ll celebrate Earth Day, the annual acknowledgement of the importance of respecting and protecting our planet’s natural ecosystems and the animals who inhabit them. This year’s Earth Day theme, in fact, is Protect Our Species, which puts a special focus on how humans can interact with wildlife in the most responsible, sustainable way. This is a value that G Adventures shares, most pointedly with our Jane Goodall Collection of tours, which aims to demonstrate how wildlife-focused travel can build a greater respect for the incredible animals who share this planet with us.

For the next four weeks, we’ll be presenting a mini series of blog posts called Meet Your Neighbours, in which we’ll introduce you to some of the incredible animals you might encounter on our Jane Goodall Collection tours. Today: meet the massive Galapagos sea tortoise.

I am: Chelonoidis nigra, also known as the Galapagos sea tortoise or the Galapagos giant tortoise. In fact, the Galapagos Islands get their names from these massive reptiles: in Old Spanish, the word galapago means tortoise.

I live: On the Galapagos Islands (obviously)! Galapagos tortoises have likely lived on the Ecuadorean islands for something between six and 12 million years, having migrated — or, sort of, floated (more on that later) — there as relatives a now-distantly related species mainland South America. Giant sea tortoises are poor swimmers, meaning that they would have made the more than 1,000-kilometre journey partly by being carried by sea currents — and, luckily, tortoises can live for a long time without food and water.

I eat: Almost anything that’s green! Galapagos tortoises are herbivores, which means they eat exclusively plants. On the islands, this includes grass, tree bark, and even cacti. Through this diet — of roughage alone — I can weigh up to 400 kilograms!

I need: To continue interacting with species that are native to the Galapagos islands. The greatest threats to the continued existence of the Galapagos giant tortoise are predation by dogs, and competition for food from livestock such as cattle.

You might get to meet — which is to say, see in the wild — the Galapagos giant tortoise on our Galapagos Island Hopping tour.

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