Galapagos wildlife

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Galapagos Islands giant tortoise


Of all the wildlife, it is the giant tortoise that most symbolizes the Galapagos Islands. The giant tortoise has given the Galapagos its name. It is the face of this tortoise that appears on the official insignia of the islands and is stamped on the passport of the visitor.

Galapagos giant tortoise

The giant tortoise is a vegetarian, well known for its ability to fast for long periods of time. This ability proved to be a great asset, enabling it to make the long voyage to the Galapagos on rafts of tangled vegetation and to survive the arid conditions on many of the islands. This attribute became a liability as the buccaneers and whalers carted off over 200,000 tortoises, knowing the animals would stay alive in the ship's hold without food or water, thereby providing fresh meat to the crew for several months. Some, like Melville, thought the giant tortoise's fate was somewhat predestined.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Habitat: The giant tortoise sleeps for about sixteen hours each day and keeps cool either by taking mudbaths or by partly submerging itself in water. They can survive for long periods without drinking and obtain most of their moisture from the dew found on vegetation. Fresh young grass is the favourite food of the tortoise but in the drier regions of the Galapagos Islands this is often scarce so instead they feed on the Opuntia cactus.

Between the Galapagos tortoise and the finch there has evolved a special relationship.

The finches like to eat the ticks and parasites from the tortoise's skin and the tortoise seems only too happy to let them do this. The finch hops in front of the tortoise to show that it is ready and the tortoise.

Galapagos Islands reptiles, Giant tortoise
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