A stunning discovery by a team of research scientists from Yale University has resulted in identifying a new species of giant tortoise on the island of Santa Cruz. Two populations living on opposite sides of the island had always been thought to be related, however recent genetic testing revealed the two populations to be separate species.
The larger population of several thousand tortoises found on the western side of the island has now been classified as the Western Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri). A smaller population of several hundred tortoises found populating the lower slopes of Cerro Fatal on the eastern side of the island are now classified as the Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi).
The name of the eastern group is in honor of Fausto Llerena Sanchez, known as Don Fausto to his friends and colleagues, a 43 year veteran of the National Park Services and caretaker of Lonesome George in his last days at the Charles Darwin Research Center.
This discovery holds particular significance for the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, a collaboration between the Galapagos Conservancy, Yale University and the Galapagos National Park Directorate as they pay particular attention to this newly classified species.