Chelonoidis abingdonii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Testudinidae

Scientific Name: Chelonoidis abingdonii (Günther, 1877)
Common Name(s):
English Pinta Giant Tortoise, Abingdon Island Tortoise
Spanish Tortuga Gigante de Pinta
Chelonoidis nigra ssp. abingdoni (Günther, 1877) [orth. error]
Geochelone abingdonii (Günther, 1877)
Geochelone elephantopus ssp. abingdonii (Günther, 1877)
Geochelone nigra ssp. abingdonii (Günther, 1877)
Testudo abingdonii Günther, 1877
Testudo elephantopus ssp. abingdonii (Günther, 1877)
Taxonomic Source(s): Fritz, U. and Havas, P. 2007. Checklist of chelonians of the world. Vertebrate Zoology 57(2): 149-368.
Taxonomic Notes:

The previous Red List assessments for Galápagos tortoises treated the various allopatric island populations as subspecies of Chelonoidis nigra, as did several authors (Pritchard 1996; Caccone et al. 1999; Beheregaray et al. 2003; Fritz and Havas 2007; TTWG 2007, Rhodin et al. 2008). However, other authors have considered them as full species based on morphology (Bour 1980; Fritts 1983; Ernst and Barbour 1989) and more recently several researchers (Caccone et al. 2002; Russello et al. 2005, 2007; Poulakakis et al. 2008, 2012, 2015; Chiari et al. 2009) have treated most of them as full species based on congruent patterns of mitochondrial and nuclear variation. This elevated species-level taxonomy has been largely accepted by TTWG (2009, 2014) and TEWG (2015) for most phylogenetic lineages of Galápagos tortoises. This Red List assessment therefore now treats C. abingdonii as a full species, rather than retaining its previous subspecies ranking from earlier Red List assessments.

The name Testudo ephippium, athough widely applied to the Pinzón [Duncan Island] Tortoise in the past, was interpreted by Pritchard (1996) to possibly be based on a type specimen from Pinta, and therefore potentially a senior synonym of Testudo abingdonii, but this has not yet been determined genetically.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Extinct ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-08-11
Assessor(s): Cayot, L.J., Gibbs, J.P., Tapia, W. & Caccone, A.
Reviewer(s): Rhodin, A.G.J. & van Dijk, P.P.
Contributor(s): IUCN Galapagos Tortoises Red Listing Workshop & Galapagos National Park Directorate
Facilitator/Compiler(s): van Dijk, P.P. & Rhodin, A.G.J.
With the death of the last known Pinta Tortoise, Lonesome George (in captivity since 1972), on 24 June 2012, the species went extinct. Extensive surveys have failed to find other tortoises on Pinta or in any of the world’s zoos. Tortoises with up to 50% abingdonii genes have been reported from Volcán Wolf on northern Isabela, including first generation hybrids, but no pure individuals of abingdonii are known to exist (TEWG, 2015). This assessment incorporates contributions from the international workshop on Galápagos tortoises convened by the Galápagos National Park Directorate in July 2012.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Chelonoidis abingdonii occurred on Pinta [formerly Abingdon Island] in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. Pinta has a total surface area of 59.4, of which 24.5 sq. km / 41% could potentially sustain tortoises (Gibbs, unpubl. data).
Countries occurrence:
Regionally extinct:
Ecuador (Galápagos)
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):650
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Based on an estimated average density of one tortoise per hectare of suitable habitat, the pre-impact population was estimated to have been about 2,500 adults (Gibbs, unpubl. data). The Pinta Giant Tortoise was heavily exploited and its population collapsed in the middle of the 19th century, followed by significant collecting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and exploitation by local fishermen subsequently. The last surviving animal, Lonesome George, was collected from the wild in 1972 and transferred to the Government of Ecuador’s Tortoise Centre on Santa Cruz, where he died on 24 June 2012. No further animals have been found on Pinta despite extensive surveys (Pritchard 1996). During the final goat eradication project (1998-2003), park ranger activity covered the island and yielded no sign of tortoises. In 2008, the Galápagos National Park Directorate carried out the last massive search for tortoises, but only found a few tortoise shells at the bottom of crevices (Cayot 2014).
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:0

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Chelonoidis abingdonii was a saddlebacked tortoise adapted for browsing on higher vegetation, in particular, low-hanging cactus pads. Pinta habitat, before its destruction by feral goats, was largely dry xeric brushland and grassland at lower elevations, with limited more mesic forest habitat at higher elevations. Opuntia cactus trees are dominant in much of the Arid and Transition Zones on the island and provide an important food resource for tortoises. Habitats are now recovering following goat eradication.
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Chelonoidis abingdonii was historically exploited in the 19th century by whalers and other mariners as on-board food supplies.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Chelonoidis abingdonii was heavily exploited by whalers and other mariners in the 19th century as on-board food supplies, which severely depleted the population. By the 20th century, few tortoises remained and some exploitation continued by local fishermen. In addition, extensive deforestation by goats, introduced to Pinta in 1959, destroyed tortoise habitat (Pritchard 1996).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Legislation and regulations: Chelonoidis abingdonii is protected under Ecuadorian national law. It has been included in Appendix I of CITES since 1975, prohibiting all forms of commercial international trade. The entirety of Pinta Island, and therefore 100% of this species’ native range, is protected as part of the Galapagos National Park.

Captive breeding attempts with Lonesome George, the last known individual of C. abingdonii, were undertaken off and on during the 40 years of his residence at the Government of Ecuador’s Tortoise Centre on Santa Cruz, but he never reproduced. Goats were eradicated from Pinta in 1999 (Campbell et al. 2004). Ecosystem restoration on Pinta needs to continue to secure its other biodiversity. For that reason in May 2010, thirty-nine sterilized adult tortoises of various hybrid origins were released on to Pinta to act as non-reproductive natural ecosystem engineers to initiate a more natural habitat restoration process (Hunter et al. 2013). An ongoing project to remove hybrid tortoises with partial Pinta ancestry from Volcán Wolf on Isabela to begin a captive breeding programme is underway. Their reproductive offspring will be released on to Pinta, followed by long-term monitoring of the population.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):91-100
  Area based regional management plan:Yes
  Invasive species control or prevention:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Capra hircus ]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.2. Competition

2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.2. Area-based Management Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

Bibliography [top]

Beheregaray, L.B., Ciofi, C., Caccone, A., Gibbs, J.P. and Powell, J.R. 2003. Genetic divergence, phylogeography and conservation units of giant tortoises from Santa Cruz and Pinzón, Galápagos Islands. Conservation Genetics 4: 31–46.

Bour, R. 1980. Essai sur la taxinomie des Testudinidae actuels (Reptilia, Chelonii). Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris 4(2A): 541–546.

Caccone, A., Gentile, G., Gibbs, J.P., Fritts, T.H., Snell, H.L., Betts, J. and Powell, J.R. 2002. Phylogeography and history of giant Galápagos tortoises. Evolution 56(10): 2052–2066.

Caccone, A., Gibbs, J.P., Ketmaier, V., Suatoni, E. and Powell, J.R. 1999. Origin and evolutionary relationships of giant Galápagos tortoises. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 96: 13223–13228.

Campbell, K., Donlan, C.J., Cruz, F. and Carrion, V. 2004. Eradication of feral goats Capra hircus from Pinta Island, Galápagos, Ecuador. Oryx 38(3): 1-6.

Cayot, L.J. 2014. The Lonesome George Story: Where do we go from here? Galapagos Conservancy.

Chiari, Y., Hyseni, C., Fritts, T.H., Glaberman, S., Marquez, C., Gibbs, J.P., Claude, J. and Caccone, A. 2009. Morphometrics parallel genetics in a newly discovered and endangered taxon of Galápagos tortoise. PLoS One 4(7): e6272.

Ernst, C.H. and Barbour, R.W. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.

Fritts, T.H. 1983. Morphometrics of Galapagos tortoises: evolutionary implications. In: R.I. Bowman and A.E. Leviton (eds), Patterns of Evolution in Galapagos Organisms, pp. 107–122. AAAS, San Francisco.

Fritz, U. and Havas, P. 2007. Checklist of chelonians of the world. Vertebrate Zoology 57(2): 149-368.

Günther, A.C.L.G. 1875. Descriptions of the living and extinct races of gigantic land-tortoises. Parts I and II. Introduction, and the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 165: 251–284.

Günther, A.C.L.G. 1877. The Gigantic Land-Tortoises (Living and Extinct) in the Collection of the British Museum. Taylor and Francis, London.

Hunter, E.A., Gibbs, J.P., Cayot, L.J. and Tapia, W. 2013. Equivalency of Galápagos giant tortoises used as ecological replacement species to restore ecosystem functions. Conservation Biology 27: 701-709.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

Poulakakis, N., Edwards, D.L., Chiari, Y., Garrick, R.C., Russello, M.A., Benavides, E., Watkins-Colwell, G.J., Glaberman, S., Tapia, W., Gibbs, J.P., Cayot, L.J. and Caccone, A. 2015. Description of a new Galapagos giant tortoise species (Chelonoidis; Testudines: Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138779:1–18.

Poulakakis, N., Glaberman, S., Russello, M., Beheregaray, L.B., Ciofi, C., Powell, J.R. and Caccone, A. 2008. Historical DNA analysis reveals living descendants of an extinct species of Galápagos tortoise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 15464–15469.

Poulakakis, N., Russello, M., Geist, D. and Caccone, A. 2012. Unravelling the peculiarities of island life: vicariance, dispersal, and the diversification of the extinct and extant giant Galápagos tortoises. Molecular Ecology 21: 160–173.

Pritchard, P.C.H. 1996. The Galápagos Tortoises: Nomenclatural and Survival Status. Chelonian Research Monographs 1: 1-85.

Rhodin, A.G.J., van Dijk, P.P. and Parham, J.P. 2008. Turtles of the world: annotated checklist of taxonomy and synonymy. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(1): 000.1-38.

Russello, M.A., Beheregaray, L.B., Gibbs, J.P., Fritts, T., Havill, N., Powell, J.R. and Caccone, A. 2007. Lonesome George is not alone among Galápagos tortoises. Current Biology 17(9): R317–R318.

Russello, M.A., Glaberman, S., Gibbs, J.P., Marquez, C., Powell, J.R. and Caccone, A. 2005. A cryptic taxon of Galápagos tortoise in conservation peril. Biological Letters 1: 287–290.

TEWG [Turtle Extinctions Working Group: Rhodin, A.G.J., Thomson, S., Georgalis, G., Karl, H.-V., Danilov, I.G., Takahashi, A., de la Fuente, M.S., Bourque, J.R., Delfino, M., Bour, R., Iverson, J.B., Shaffer, H.B. and van Dijk, P.P.]. 2015. Turtles and tortoises of the world during the rise and global spread of humanity: first checklist and review of extinct Pleistocene and Holocene chelonians. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(8): 000e.1–66.

TTWG [Turtle Taxonomy Working Group: Rhodin, A.G.J., Parham, J.F., van Dijk, P.P. and Iverson, J.B.]. 2009. Turtles of the world: annotated checklist of taxonomy and synonymy, 2009 update, with conservation status summary. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(2): 000.39–84.

TTWG [Turtle Taxonomy Working Group: van Dijk, P.P., Iverson, J.B., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. and Bour, R.]. 2014. Turtles of the world, 7th edition: annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution with maps, and conservation status. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(7): 000.329-479, doi:10.3854/crm.5.000.checklist.v7.2014.

Citation: Cayot, L.J., Gibbs, J.P., Tapia, W. & Caccone, A. 2016. Chelonoidis abingdonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T9017A65487433. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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