Hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and merchantmen during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, many of the tortoise’s subspecies are now listed as endangered
or critically endangered. Fortunately, they have been strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government since 1970.
Galápagos tortoises lead an uncomplicated life, grazing on grass, leaves and cactus, basking in the sun and napping nearly 16 hours per day. A slow metabolism and large internal stores of water mean they can survive up to a year without eating or drinking.
Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging over 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152. It is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that among the remaining giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands, there exists an old timer that was a hatchling at the time of Charles Darwin’s famous visit in 1835.