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New species of giant tortoise discovered on Santa Cruz

Getting up close and personal with Santa Cruz tortoises

Getting up close and personal with Santa Cruz tortoises

Recent research conducted by an international team of scientists from Yale University have yielded surprising results on the island of Santa Cruz. Genetic analyses revealed that two populations of giant tortoises are in fact two distinct species.

Viewing tortoises in the wild on Santa Cruz

Viewing tortoises in the wild on Santa Cruz

According to the Galapagos Conservancy, the large population of tortoises on the western side of the island known as "the reserve" has a population of several thousand individuals has now been classified as the Western Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri)

A group of several hundred tortoises inhabiting the lower slopes of Cerro Fatal on the eastern side of the island were assumed to be part of the same species.  As the result of the genetic analyses, they have now been classified as the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise  (Chelonoidis donfaustoi) in honor of Fausto Llerena Sánchez, a veteran ranger of 43 years (1971-2014) of the National Park Services Directorate, known to his colleagues and friends as “Don Fausto.”

The ongoing Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a collaboration between the National Park Directorate, Galapagos Conservancy, Yale researchers and others, will now pay special attention to the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise as they work towards restoring all populations of giant tortoise from the devastating effects of years of human exploitation, introduced species and habitat degradation.


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Travel with Galapagos Conservancy.  INCA has been privileged to operate Galapagos Conservancy's annual cruise since 2009. Join Galapagos Conservancy's Science Advisor Dr. Linda Cayot and lead INCA Naturalist Richard Polatty aboard INTEGRITY for an educational cruise in the Galapagos.


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