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Galapagos Islands Tortoise (Turtle)

by Darcy Pattison

"This well-crafted success story of a species’ salvation will encourage budding environmentalists." - Starred Kirkus Review

2022 Eureka! Nonfiction Honor Book (California Reading Association)

In 1963, Ecuador established a national park to protect the Galapagos Islands. When they did a census, scientists found only 14 individuals of the Española Island tortoises. The species was almost extinct. Then, they found one more Española tortoise in the San Diego Zoo, whom they named Diego, and he was brought back to the Galapagos for a breeding program.

In 2020, Diego returned to his home island to join over 2500 other Española tortoises. This is the story of one of the most successful breeding programs in scientific history. This amazing giant tortoise species was saved by fifty years of hard work by scientists and hundreds of volunteers.

Read the story of Diego, the giant Galapagos tortoise who returned home about 100 years after he was captured. He will now live out his life with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren on the island of his birth.

“A worthwhile addition to Pattison’s Another Extraordinary Animal series.” Booklist

Interesting Facts about Diego, the Galapagos Giant Tortoise

  • Diego's species, the Española Island Tortoise almost went extinct. In 1963, only 15 individual animals were left alive.
  • Once, there were about 8000 Española tortoises on the island.
  • The Española Island tortoise has a saddleback shell, instead of a dome-shaped shell. This allows them to reach higher to eat small trees.
  • The Española Island tortoise's favorite food is opuntia, a type of prickly pear cactus.
  • Diego is able to go about a year with no food or water. This made them a perfect food for sailing ships. They captured the tortoises, placed them below deck and waited until they needed fresh meat.
  • The Tortoise Restoration Project worked for sixty years to restore the population of Española tortoises.
  • The Española tortoises can live up to 200 years.
  • Diego was about 110 years old when he was returned to Española Island.
  • A tortoise is a specific kind of turtle. All tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises.
  • Today, on Española Island, scientists estimate there are about 2400 tortoises.

Extraordinary Animal Books for Kids Series

Bird. Mammal. Marine Mammal. Spider. Amphibian. Reptile.

The series is much more than just an introduction to the animal kingdom. It chronicles the story of how humans interact with animals in various ways: how we enjoy, challenge, admire, endanger, and save them. It's a fabulous series for kids to learn about the amazing complexity of animals.

Science worksheets and lesson plans are available below.



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