Updated: May 1, 2021
The Galapagos Tortoise is the largest tortoise in the entire world. Contrary to the speedy turtles in the famous show, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, they leisurely walk at 0.16 miles per hour, compared to the 2.8 MPH that we people stroll. Male tortoises can weigh up to 700 pounds, whereas females could weigh up to 400 pounds. Luckily, the shell has a honeycomb design, which reduces the overall weight so the turtle could carry it. While their life span is unknown, one turtle was documented to be 171 years old!
There are in fact two shell variations for the Galapagos Tortoise: the "dome-shaped" and the "saddleback". Tortoises with the "domed shape" carapace, the top half of the shell, normally live in Santa Cruz and the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela. These larger tortoises consume grass, where vegetation is plentiful. The Galapagos Tortoises with the "saddleback" carapace have a very long neck to reach for plants that are higher up, like cacti. They live in dry areas, where water is not very plentiful. They can actually live for a year without drinking or eating, as they can store food and water in their body.
Galapagos Tortoises have a relaxing life as they wallow in mud puddles and eat their food. They especially love to bask in the sun, as they are cold-blooded. At night, they sleep in mud, water, or brush to stay warm.
When tortoises hit adulthood, they start to reproduce. After mating, females walk of several miles (at 0.16 MPH!) to sandy ground where they lay hard-shelled eggs the size of tennis balls. They then bury the eggs with sand. The baby tortoises have to dig their way up to top, which can take a grueling 1 month. Their mother does not stay to help, and the younglings survive on their own.
Unfortunately, these magnificent animals are endangered, as colonists used to eat them by the ton and people introduced invasive species that ate tortoise eggs and young tortoises like dogs and cats. Conservation efforts are in play at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Charles Darwin Research Station, both of which jointly funded a tortoise facility.
Galapagos Tortoises are beautiful creatures! Let's do our part to make sure these tortoises stay!
“Saint Louis Zoo.” Galapagos Tortoise | Saint Louis Zoo, www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/reptiles/turtlesandtortoises/galapagostortoise. “Galápagos Tortoise.” San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Animals and Plants, animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/galapagos-tortoise. “Giant Tortoise Facts: Reptiles: Galapagos Wildlife Guide.” Giant Tortoise Facts | Reptiles | Galapagos Wildlife Guide, www.nathab.com/know-before-you-go/galapagos-islands/wildlife-guide/reptiles/giant-tortoise/.