Known to live for over 100 years, Galapagos giant tortoises are one of the longest lived vertebrates on Earth. Our herd of tortoises can be found in the Tropical Realm.

These tortoises have a special place in history as Charles Darwin himself famously included Galapagos giant tortoises in his studies of evolution. He found that their shells had different shapes according to where they lived and what they ate.

Our Galapagos giant tortoises have dome-shaped shells which prevent them from stretching their necks upwards. This means they have evolved to survive in areas where food is low on the ground, but they can easily push through thick vegetation. As part of their diet, our tortoises eat dandelions, clover and browse such as willow and lime, which is provided by our Horticulture team.

Our tortoises are part of a European Studbook managed breeding programme. You can have a go at being a Galapagos giant tortoise by climbing into one of our replica shells on the picnic lawn, in front of our Education Centre!

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Interesting facts

Where they live: Only occur on the Galapagos Islands in the east Pacific Ocean.

Habitat: Higher slopes in the dry season; lowland grassy plains in the wet season.

Size: 1.5 metres or more

Weight: Up to 250kg (males are much bigger and heavier than the females)

Threats: Predation of tortoise eggs and hatchlings by feral animals such as rats, and domestic dogs and cats, which were brought to the islands by settlers. Historically hunted for their meat. Despite legal protection and the more widely known fragility of the species, illegal hunting has occurred as recently as 1990, with 120 animals killed by poachers. Loss of habitat due to competition for vegetation with donkeys, goats and cattle.