Native to seven of the Galapagos Islands, the giant tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise. One of the best places to see the giant tortoises in the Galapagos is the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz. Giant tortoises can live for more than 100 years in the wild. Incredibly, a tortoise in captivity once reached 170 years. Spanish explorers even named the islands after the reptiles – galápago meaning tortoise – in the 16th century. Once numbering over 250,000, the tortoise population declined to a low of just 3,000 in the 1970’s due to exploitation for meat and the introduction of non-native species. Conservation and breeding efforts like those at the Charles Darwin Research Station have resurrected the species and though still listed as “vulnerable” the giant tortoise is making a comeback. In the Galapagos, breeding centers can be visited on the three main islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela and Cristobal.