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Galapagos Tortoise

Geochelone nigra

Did you know?

  • Galapagos tortoises are part of the Testudinidae family, which they share with other tortoises.
  • There are two subspecies of Galapagos tortoises.
  • They live throughout the Galapagos Islands.
  • They are the largest living tortoises in the world.
  • A female will lay two to 16 eggs per clutch.


Each adult male Galapagos tortoise can weigh 600 pounds or more, making this species the largest living tortoise in the world. Females often weight about 250 pounds. The tortoises’ shells grow in a honeycomb structure, which drastically reduces the weight of the shells and allows the animals to walk. They have thick, strong legs that are built for moving their heavy bodies. Their front legs are slight turned inward, which means they never walk completely straight forward. Likely due to their size, they generally prefer to scoot and push forward instead of raising themselves off the ground and walking. They do not have teeth, but their bony, beak-like mouth is ideal for munching on vegetation.

Young and Family

Galapagos tortoises begin reproducing when they are about 20 to 25 years old. After mating, a female will travel to a nesting area, dig a small hole, and lay eggs in the hole before covering it up. A female will lay two to 16 eggs. Once they hatch, the newly emerged tortoises are on their own. They will have to climb up and out of their covered holes and then fend for themselves once they have emerged.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Galapagos Tortoise faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador


Volcanic islands, from semiarid lowlands to moist uplands

We care about Galapagos Tortoises

Galapagos tortoises were once common in great numbers on the volcanic slopes of the Galapagos Islands. However, between 1700 and 1900, the species was brought to near extinction due to over-hunting and the introduction of non-native species, including rats, pigs, dogs and cats. Today, this species is protected by international law.

We support this species in the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Zoo. Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in Historic Hill


Historic Hill

Historic Hill is a lovely stroll through one of the oldest parts of the Saint Louis Zoo. From the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage to the Spanish architectural flavor of the 1920s in the Bird House, Primate House and Herpetarium to the finishing touches of our thoroughly modern exhibits, this area of the Zoo has a unique ambiance and a nostalgic history that make it a great destination.

Explore Historic Hill