The Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise is a dull brown colour. They can weigh up to 400 pounds (180 kilograms) and can be up to 4 feet in length (1.2 metres). They don’t have any teeth, instead they have a serrated jaw line with which they bite their food. Their jaws are covered by a horny beak (like a bird) and their large fleshy tongue is used to manipulate and pulp their food before swallowing.
These giant tortoises inhabit the Galapagos Islands, situated in the Pacific Ocean, 900km south west of Ecuador, South America. These islands have limited vegetation due to the continuous volcanic activity.
The Giant Galapagos Tortoises are herbivorous and will eat grasses, shrubs, flowers, leaf litter and cactus. They will also eat carrion when vegetation is scarce.
The Giant Galapagos Tortoise will reach sexual maturity at around 25 years of age when in captivity, however in the wild it can take more than 40 years. Their mating season is from January to June and females will dig a shallow hole in which they may lay 10-20 billiard ball sized eggs. These are covered over and hatch 6-8 months later. The Galapagos Tortoise has a life span of at least 150 years. It is even thought that they may live up to 200 years of age!
During the 1800’s sailors collected the tortoises for fresh meat while on their long voyages. There are only about 15,000 tortoises left in the Galapagos and 3 of the original 14 subspecies are now extinct. Today they are classed as an endangered species. Giant Galapagos Tortoises are now protected on all the islands they inhabit.