In Galapagos, the land of the giant tortoise

One of the farthest and most fascinating places Malaysians should aspire to visit are the Galapagos Islands in South America.

The Galapagos is a collective of 19 islands, about 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador. Because of their extremely remote location at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos Islands are a haven for a wide range of unique animal species.

This was the place that inspired British biologist Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution by natural selection after he visited in 1835.

Of all the extraordinary native animals, the one that stood out were the giant tortoises. That was why when the islands were discovered by Spanish sailors in 1535, they named the archipelago “galapago”, which is an old Spanish word for tortoise.

According to Wikipedia, these tortoises can weigh as much as 417kg and grow to be 1.3m long.

Almost half a century ago, in 1971, a Hungarian scientist on Pinta Island in the northern part of the Galapagos saw a rare giant tortoise and reported it to the Galapagos National Park. The rangers brought the creature to the Charles Darwin Research Station for protection and to breed.

It was the last known survivor of the Pinta tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdoni) until its death in 2012. It was named Lonesome George and it became a famous symbol for critically endangered species.


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