Galapagos tortoises

Giant Galápagos tortoise Polly at ZSL London Zoo

What they look like

These colossal reptiles hatch from eggs the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Although most assume it is the shell of the tortoise that makes them so heavy, it is in fact relatively light with vast fat stores making up the bulk of their weight.

Animal facts

The largest living tortoise, these reptiles were once so ubiquitous that Spanish explorers names the Galapagos islands after them – Galapagos meant tortoise in old Spanish. They can survive without food or water for over a year, able to store large quantities of liquid when a water source is found. Although they are land dwelling they spend a lot of their time bathing in shallow pools.

What they eat

A range of vegetation including grasses, cactus and leaves. They have been known to eat unusual foods that are dangerous to humans such as fruits from the manzanillo tree. On occasion, in a bid for extra protein, these herbivores have been documented eating small birds.


Dry lowlands and humid highlands

Where they live

The Galapagos Islands


Introduced species such as feral dogs, cats and rats prey on young tortoises before they have a chance to fully develop their protective shell. Wild grazing animals such as pigs and goats also strip areas of vegetation making nests more vulnerable.

Life Span
Average 177 years