Scientists claim that the iconic Galapagos tortoise will be reintroduced with the help of its close blood relatives.
One iconic species of Galapagos tortoise went extinct in 2012 when the last of such turtle named ‘Lonesome George’ died after living more than 100 years.
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But scientists are hoping to revive this extinct species with the help of some of its close blood relatives which have been discovered on the flanks of Wolf Volcano in Isabela Island few years ago.
Originally, there were at least eight species of Galapagos tortoise and at least three of them are gone now including Pintas with which George belonged to. Galapagos tortoise was abundant until 16th century. Their numbers significantly reduced from 250,000 to around 3,000 in the late 20th century.
Galapagos tortoise was most harmed by sailors who used to bring those tortoises as a food source on long voyages. Since these tortoises can live in a ship more than a year without food or water, it makes them a sort of perfect takeaway meal for seafarers.
Fortunately, some tortoises from the saddleback species of Galapagos were able to survive when were they dumped by sailors in the river near Wolf volcano. These tortoises can extend their neck and float on their backs. So they reached the shore and interbred with Isabela’s native Galapagos tortoise.
There are 1,600 such tortoises living on the island and some of them have shown high levels of Pinta DNA when their blood samples were tested.
Scientists are planning to separate these high levels of Pinta DNA tortoises and breed animals that are genetically closest to original species. In a few generations, there will be tortoises with 95% of famous extinct Galapagos genes, scientists claim.
“The size of this population is mind-boggling,” Adalgisa Caccone, one of the research scientists assigned for the task told New York Times. “I am optimistic that some of these animals will have high conservation value.”
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Within a decade, Pinta Galapagos will possibly lumber in their native island once again.