A species of giant tortoise last seen over a 100 years ago has been discovered on the Galapagos Islands.

A member of the chelonoidis phantasticus species has not been seen since 1906 and were considered to be extinct.

Ecuador's environment minister Marcelo Mata made the announcement that an adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise had been discovered.

The solitary member was found on Fernandina Island after an expedition by the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), a project implemented by the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Conservancy.

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The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is one of 14 giant tortoise species in the Galapagos but only 10 are thought to have survived human colonisation.

The female has a large body, smooth shell and a pink head.

A tweet from Mr Mata included an image of the reptile and the only known specimen was collected in 1906.

Experts believe the tortoise could be older than 100 and could give the species a new lease of life.

The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is one of 14 giant tortoise species in the Galapagos but only 10 are thought to have survived human colonisation. Photo / Getty Images
The Fernandina Giant Tortoise is one of 14 giant tortoise species in the Galapagos but only 10 are thought to have survived human colonisation. Photo / Getty Images

"This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find other tortoise, which will allow us to start a breeding program in captivity to recover this species," Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park, said.

A spokesman for Galapagos Conservancy said: "While thought to be extinct due to volcanic eruptions in past centuries, there have been anecdotal observations indicating that there may indeed still be a very few left on the island."

The nameless tortoise was transported by boat to the Giant Turtle Breeding Centre on the archipelago's Santa Cruz.