Monday, July 9, 2012

LONESOME GEORGE - The End of his Line

A couple of weeks ago now the world lost Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta Island tortoise - a sub-species of giant tortoise endemic to that particular island in the Galápagos.

Image: George on 12th August, 1997 - Darwin Station, Galápagos Islands 

Until a scientist stumbled across George on Pinta in 1972 it was believed that his particular line was extinct. So, on his discovery he was moved to Darwin Station (where I had the great pleasure of meeting him) in Puerto Ayora in the Galápagos Islands to see out his days under science's watchful eye.

Unfortunately attempts to have him mate with a pair of Espanola tortoises (his nearest genetic match) failed and so the end of the line for George was the end of his line.
Oddly, as recently as March this year I pondered whether George was still with us whilst speaking with Jo Shoebridge on ABC North Coast radio's 'Planes, Passports & Postcards'. Listen HERE, if you'd like.

It’s believed George was about 100 years old, which made him not particularly long in the tooth for a giant tortoise. His passing prompted me to dig out my old travel journal for a bit of a reminisence, and found this entry dated 12 August, 1997:

Huge. Cumbersome. And odd looking. At one point George seemed particularly agrieved by our presence and turned to charge towards us. Having a reasonably good grasp of tortoise physiology from a long-remembered childhood fable, we reckoned we had about seven or eight minutes to get out of harm's way. I suspect he was unimpressed by our presence near his companions - a pair of lady-tortoises with whom it is expected not-so-lonesome-George will mate. With luck there will be some wee, blended offspring but, to date, the gnarled old fellow hasn't been tempted by their womanly charms.

Could do with a pedicure. #Galapagos Tortoise.

Vale George.

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