The Giant Tortoise

A series of 4 beautiful first day covers have come into my collection since writing the book. (Sandie Robb’s collection)

“What I find really interesting about these covers are the postmarks. Look at how they all relate to the illustrations on the cover and the stamps.”

It is important when collecting stamps to look at the envelope and the postmark too. Sometimes you may not want to remove  the stamp from the envelope and keep the complete envelope as it has interesting and important information on it, even if it is not a first day cover. Cover is the word stamp collectors use for envelope. A first day cover is one postmarked on the first day of issue of the stamps it holds.

This one pictures the Giant Tortoise. Often inside first day covers there is a information card. The card inside this one has an extract from Charles Darwin’s Log 1835Galapagos Islands – the following is part of this extract:

“…Some grow to an immense size. I have been told that it requires 6 to 8 men to lift them from the ground. The old males are the largest… The tortoise which live on those islands where there is no water, or in the lower arid parts of the others feed chiefly on succulent cactus. Those which frequent the higher and damp regions eat the leaves of various trees, a kind of berry which is acid and austere and likewise a pale gren lichen that hangs in tresses from the boughs of trees.”


The original 14 species of giant tortoise are now down to 11 and may be 10 when lonesome George, the sole survivor of the Pinta Island tortoise finally dies. It is thought that George is about 90 years old but tortoises can live for up to 200 years, so he is still young and healthy at the moment. A lot of work is being done to find a mate for George, with DNA tests being done on various females to see if they are of the same species or at least a close match.

Teaching tips:

Look at the three different shapes of tortoise in these drawings and work out why they have evolved differently.  (Clues to the answer are on Page 10 of the Darwin stamp book)

(drawings copyright Teal Purrington 2007 – available as downloadable PDF colouring sheet from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: