While on an expedition in the Galápagos Islands, conservations made several incredible discoveries — including finding descendants of tortoise species believed to be extinct.
In 2012, a tortoise named Lonesome George, estimated to be about 100 years old, died. He was the last known member of the Chelonoidis abingdonii subspecies, which inhabited Pinta Island. On a recent 10-day journey around the Galápagos Islands, researchers from Galapagos Conservancy found a female tortoise at Isabela Island's Wolf Volcano who is a partial relative of Lonesome George.
This is "a story of hope," Galapagos Conservancy President Johannah Barry told NBC News, adding that her team is "absolutely thrilled" by the discovery. Humans have moved tortoises from different islands, and there could be additional hybrid tortoises with Pinta Island lineage in other areas of the Galápagos.
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The researchers also found 18 additional females and 11 male tortoises from Wolf Volcano that are partially related to another species from Floreana Island that was thought to be extinct. They will be taken to a breeding center and evaluated. "I think we are cautiously optimistic that this is a species that we will be able to bring back from extinction and we can repopulate Floreana with tortoises that have significant Floreana linage," Barry said.
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