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Galápagos Giant Tortoise

Galápagos Giant Tortoise Facts

Size 40-47 inch (100-120 cm)
Speed Up to 0.3 mph (0.5 km/h)
Weight 440-661 lb (200-300 kg)
Lifespan 100-150 years
Food Grass, herbs, fruits, cactuses
Predators Falcons, wild dogs
Habitat Galápagos archipelago (Pacific Ocean)
Class Reptiles
Order Turtles
Family Tortoises
Scientific name Chelonoidis nigra
Characteristics Giant tortoise

Main Characteristics

Galápagos giant tortoises belong to the biggest tortoises in the world. Data concerning size and weight often widely differ, but it seems to be proven that some of these animals can reach lengths of more than 70 inches (180 cm), measured from head to tail. The heaviest Galápagos giant tortoise in captivity weighed 930 lb (422 kg). The Leatherback sea turtle is even bigger than the Galápagos giant tortoise.

Galápagos Giant Tortoise Galápagos Giant Tortoise - Photo: Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock

Life Style

What Do Galápagos Giant Tortoise All Day Long?

Galápagos giant tortoises lead a quiet, peaceful life and sleep up to 16 hours a day. They can survive for up to one year without food and water, because they are able to store their resources extremely well.


Galápagos giant tortoises are very slow, but they are eager walkers – if they want to. They can cover distances of up to eight miles (13 km) within two days. Some tortoises were being equipped with electronic transmitters to document this.

Anatomy and Appearance

The Shell

Some Galápagos giant tortoises have a dome-shaped shell, others have a shell resembling a saddle. On islands with a dry and hot climate, tortoises tend to have saddle-shaped shells. The shape allows them to stretch their neck further out to reach higher plants.

Galápagos Giant Tortoise Galápagos Giant Tortoise - Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/


Do Galápagos Giant Tortoise Make Sounds?

If Galápagos giant tortoises feel threatened, they retreat into their shells and hiss. The noise is created when the air leaves their lungs.

How Do Galápagos Giant Tortoises Fight?

If two males fight, they lift their heads as high as possible. The male tortoise that can stretch its head higher than the others, wins the fight. It’s that simple!


Life Expectancy

The Oldest Galápagos Giant Tortoise

This was Harriet. She lived at the Australia Zoo in the State of Queensland (Australia) and died in 2006 at an age of about 175 or 176 years. Unfortunately, nobody knows her exact age.

Galápagos Giant Tortoise Galápagos Giant Tortoise - Photo: Marisa Estivill/

Enemies and Threats

The Galápagos Giant Tortoise Is a Threatened Species

Up to the 19th century, the animals were hunted by sailors, because they needed food. Today there are only 3,000 to 5,000 of these animals left. Therefore they are a strictly protected species.


At the age of about 20 to 25 years, the tortoises become mature. After mating, the female Galápagos giant tortoise lays about 24 eggs into a nest and covers it with leaves. The little baby tortoises hatch after four to eight months and are left on their own right from the beginning.

Fun Facts

What Does Galápagos Mean?

The Galápagos Islands have been named after the tortoises. The Spanish term Galápago indeed indicates a saddle which refers to their saddle-shaped shell.

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