The Remarkable Story of the Pinta Island Tortoises

Please welcome author Rebecca E. Hirsch to the Lerner blog today! Below she shares some good news about Galápagos tortoises.

When I write about endangered animals, I try to make young readers think critically about these animals and their habitats. I want readers to care about endangered species, and I always look for conservation success stories that will give readers something to cheer about.

9781467779821fc_MediumIn Galápagos Tortoises: Long-Lived Giant Reptiles (cover pictured), part of the Comparing Animal Traits series, readers meet the largest tortoises in the world. They learn that Galápagos tortoises are not one species but many, each living on a different island.

In the book, readers also learn about Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises. When he died in 2012, at more than 100 years old, his species passed into extinction.

Now Lonesome George’s story has taken a hopeful turn. Scientists have discovered some of his close relatives alive and well on nearby Isabela Island. Lonesome George’s species may not be extinct after all!

How did the Pinta Island tortoises end up on a different island? Here’s what scientists think happened: In the 19th century, sailors brought tortoises on board for food. Some sailors must have dumped excess Pinta Island tortoises in the water near Isabela Island. Some of the tortoises floated to shore, took up residence, and mated with the native tortoises.

With careful breeding, scientists hope to bring back Lonesome George’s species from extinction and reintroduce the tortoises to Pinta Island. That’s conservation news worth cheering!