Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
If you make a contribution of $150 or more, you will become an official “Friend of the Planet” and receive a Friend of the Planet T-shirt or water bottle. You can also submit opinion essays to us for our consideration for posting on our new “Bright Ideas” op-ed page.
A team of explorers on the Galápagos Island of Fernandina last week discovered a female giant tortoise from a species thought to have gone extinct in 1906. The expedition was led by biologist Forrest Galante for Animal Planet’s series “Extinct or Alive” which seeks to find “extinct” animals by searching for them in locations where a given species could have found refuge to remain alive. You can watch the episode this summer — it is the first such discovery for the show that has sought many similar creatures like the Tasmanian Tiger and the Dodo bird.
The Galápagos islands are known for their unique species of wildlife that helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution — as a result, they are a UNESCO world heritage site and a popular ecotourism destination.
It is unclear how old the tortoise is, but it is believed that she could have fertilized eggs stored. To survive, according to The Guardian, the species “will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time,” said Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “There may be hope.”
The tortoise is now at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center on Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, where they have successfully bred and released 4,000 Galapagos tortoises — the experts there hope that further expeditions will find a male and that the rediscovered tortoise may one day be able to breed. “This facility will ensure her ongoing survival, a healthy diet and perhaps if sperm retention has occurred, fertile eggs and offspring,” Animal Planet said in a statement on its website. “The hope is that her discovery will prompt new searches and ongoing funding for the location of a suitable mate with the ultimate goal of re-releasing many healthy animals back onto the island.”
Why This Matters:Today mankind has altered the natural environment to such an extent that extinctions are far too common — as evidenced by our story about the first mammal extinction due to climate change. But that does not mean there are not future discoveries of new species or places where species previously thought to be extinct have survived despite the obstacles humans have created for them. About this amazing discovery, Galante said, “I believe she can become an icon of wildlife hope. She’s the rarest tortoise, if not animal, in the entire world and one of the largest discoveries in the Galapagos in the last century,” So true, and we are inspired to tell these stories and help to build the global political will to protect more pristine places, like the Galapagos.
To Go Deeper: Watch these Galápagos tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station fight for food.
The Chinese government announced on Sunday several drastic measures to attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus in China, including China banning the trade of wild animals until the coronavirus epidemic has been eliminated across the country — the ban was deemed necessary because it appears that the disease was transmitted to humans through a “wet” market that traded in game meat.
Why This Matters: There have long been calls for the Chinese to crack down on illegal wildlife trade — the question is whether the rapid spread of this virus and the fear and disruption it is causing will finally lead to an end to a permanent end to the wild animal trade there
In January 1995, the National Park Service undertook a project to re-introduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park — wolves had been driven out early in the 20th century — and from the 14 animals who were relocated from Canada into the Park, there are now 14 packs (more than 100) make the Park their home.
Why This Matters: It was hugely controversial at the time, but looking back now, the successful re-introduction shows, once again, the power of the natural world to regenerate if given the chance
We generally think of earthworms as beneficial and essential to healthy soils–and in many ways they are! But did you know that much of the United States isn’t actually supposed to have any earthworms? As the Atlantic reported, “Until about 10,000 years ago, a vast ice sheet covered the northern third of the North American […]