The Galapagos giant tortoise is the islands' icon. It is used on souvenirs, stamps and the the Galapagos National Park logo. Without the giant tortoise, the Galapagos would not be what they are today a mecca for tourists and a source of income for locals and government. The fate of the Galapagos is intimately tied to this one animal. The photos introduce you to the giant tortoise and you can learn more from the natural history information.
This tortoise is peering at the camera. They're naturally curious and will pull their heads into the shell only if you get close enough to touch. However, National Park rules forbid visitors to get closer than a couple of yards.
Giant tortoises are quite social. The pictured group is from Sierra Negra volcano population that inhabits southern Isabela Island. This sub-species is notable for the flat, so-called "tabletop" shells, quite distinct from the rounded dome shells of tortoises from other islands. Some of these were rescued from the Cerro Azul volcano when it erupted in 1999, but in 2000, 18 tortoises were deliberately killed by fishermen protesting fishing restrictions imposed for conservation reasons. The fishermen were aiming to put off tourists, but they did not really succeed.
"These huge reptiles, surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs and large cacti, seemed to my fancy like some antedeluvian animals."
Charles Darwin on giant tortoises, Voyage of the Beagle 1845