Can I Buy a Galapagos Tortoise?

It is possible to buy a Galapagos tortoise, however you may find your local authority does not allow it, while in other places a permit for rare or endangered species is needed. You must be ready to care for a large, expensive animal that can live for up to 200 years.

Galapagos tortoises are some of, if not the world’s largest tortoise species’. They can grow pretty huge, for example an adult, full-grown tortoise of this species can weigh as much as 500 pounds (226kg) and be over 5 feet long. On top of that, they are extremely long lived, with an average life span of more than 100 years. In some cases, these tortoises can live over 150 years, and the oldest one known to modern science passed away in 2006 aged 176. They are also an endangered species for several reasons, which is why they are protected in many places.

Given how interesting they are, you may be thinking of getting a Galapagos tortoise of your own. But can you buy one, and if so is it a good idea?

Can Everyone Own a Galapagos Tortoise?

Galapagos tortoises are not your typical tortoise breed that most owners take care of. In fact, it’s pretty rare for a private keeper to own one outside of an institution, because they are an endangered species. However, several other things have to be kept in mind if you intend to buy one of these reptiles despite the challenges involved.

For example, this breed is only for owners who are serious and committed when it comes to caring for tortoises. It is not a breed that beginners (or even most seasoned tortoise owners for that matter) could handle. The responsibility is too great for all but the most determined of enthusiasts, and most others will not know how to properly take care of these giants of the reptile world. This is why only an experienced, serious owner should consider getting one.

Not to mention that these tortoises live for a very long time, much longer compared to tortoise breeds that people usually take as pets. In order to care for one, you need to be prepared to live with it for your entire life. You also have to decide who will continue taking care of the tortoise after you die, and you’ll even need to have at least some idea of who will take over from them as well!

Overall, it is not really recommended to take on a Galapagos tortoise as a pet. It is only to be taken into consideration in special cases when your experience and commitment make you feel sure that this is something you can deal with.

Perhaps you are passionate about the conservation of the species’ and have the time and wealth to manage them correctly, in which case we wish you good luck with your endeavor!

How Much Does It Cost to Buy One?

As you can imagine, since this is an endangered species, buying one is going to cost a lot. How much you have to pay also depends on how old the tortoise is.

For instance, if you want to get a hatchling it can cost you as much as $6,000 (£4200). Meanwhile, if you wish to get a tortoise that already reached adulthood (around 25 years and older), the price can be anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000 (£15000 and £20000). So quite clearly, this is not something just anyone can afford. Besides, as mentioned earlier, in some instances, you will also need a permit to own such a tortoise, and there may be a lengthy application process whereby you will need to be able to justify exactly why you wish to own one.

What Do You Need to Consider Before Buying a Galapagos Tortoise?

In order to take care of a Galapagos tortoise, you need to consider a few things. Even if you have a good reason and the money to buy the reptile, there are a number of other important considerations.

  • You Need Lots of Space

These tortoises are huge, and they can become even more massive as time goes by. The largest Galapagos tortoise ever recorded was almost 6 feet (1.8 metres) long. Given they can reach more than 5 feet (1.5 metres), you need to prepare a spacious place for them. At least 400 square feet (37 square metres) will be necessary.

Clearly the average back yard is unlikely to be sufficient!

  • They Weigh a Lot

Not only are they very large when they become older, but they also weigh an awful lot too. They can weigh as much as 500 pounds (226kg), although in some cases, they can even exceed this amount. This matters because you need to be ready and able to transport the pet to a vet if health problems arise.

On top of that, if they walk into you or your children, they may end up injuring you or them, as they have enough force to do this. They might be relatively slow creatures, but don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t extremely powerful, because they absolutely are!

  • They Live a Long Long Time

As previously mentioned, some of these tortoises can live upwards of 150 years. Therefore, whether you bought a hatchling or an adult tortoise, you should be prepared to take care of it until the day you die. Then, you should make a will that includes the next person who has to take care of the tortoise from that day on. The next person will also have to be ready to include someone in their will if they also die before the tortoise does.

Needless to say, this will all take a lot of very careful thought and discussion.

  • It Can Get Expensive

Caring for a Galapagos tortoise can be pricey over time. They need to eat a lot every single day. They can also eat, and benefit from, a large variety of foods such as broad leafy greens, grasses, vegetables, and some carrion. In general, they can consume as much as 80 pounds (36kg) of food every day.

They must also have water available all the time, indeed they benefit from ‘soaking‘ just as much as smaller tortoises, so you’ll need to have a large body of water available for them to do so.

  • You Need a Strong Enclosure for Them

Since they are very strong reptiles thanks to their size and weight, you need to ensure you provide a strong enclosure. If you don’t, you risk having the tortoise barge through the fence or boundary if it is too weak.

Think of these tortoises as the living equivilent of battle tanks and you begin to get a good idea of how unstoppable they can be when they get moving.

What Are Some Alternative Giant Tortoise Species?

If you love, or love the idea of owning tortoises that reach considerable sizes when they grow older, you don’t necessarily have to get a Galapagos tortoise. There are alternatives as well.

For instance, Aldabra tortoises also get very big and live long lives. They can live for around 150 years or more, and reach a weight of up to 550 pounds (250kg). Moreover, they less frequently require a permit to keep, which makes it much easier to obtain one.

Sulcata tortoises are also a great option. They are the third-largest tortoise species, and they are widely available and popular among tortoise owners. You don’t need a permit, and they can live over 70 years in some cases. Over time, they can get pretty big, reaching as much as 24 to 30 inches (24cm to 30cm).

Final Thoughts

As you can see, getting a Galapagos tortoise will bring lots of responsibilities. However, if you think you are prepared for it, you can indeed buy one.

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