"Lonesome George," The Galapagos Tortoise
"All the world is wonderful, only man is vile." (The Bard)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Will the Galapagos Survive Man?
"A Solitary Man"
“How alone can you get? I mean, many of us live alone by choice, necessity or just plain circumstances, but there are many of the opposite - or the same- gender and species around that we might share our lives with if we made an effort or just got lucky in the lottery of life.
Imagine, though, if you were the last member of your species left on Earth; the last man (or woman) standing, as it were.
That is the current fate of “Lonesome George,” a Pinta Island tortoise, (Geochelone nigra Abingdon), one of the 11 known species of Galapagos Tortoise, and one surviving member of perhaps two left alive. (The other is in the Prague Zoo and may not be exactly the same, genetically, as George).
It was good old blundering, interfering man which caused the species to be whittled-down like this by introducing goats to Pinta Island (among others in the Galapagos); when the herders or crofters left, the goats turned feral, multiplied, and practically denuded the island’s vegetation, leaving nothing for George’s species to live on and leaving the species practically extinct.
Lonesome George is said to have inherited his unhappy moniker from actor, George Gobel; he is now somewhere between 60 and 90 years of age, which would have made him around 20 when he was discovered by malacologist (study of molluscs), Joseph Vagvolgyi, in 1971.
George was relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Centre (see notes) and vigorous efforts have been made to get him to breed. He was penned with two female tortoises and has mated twice with the several clutches of eggs being found to be infertile. Scientists suspect the species are not quite close enough genetically to breed.
Efforts are also being made to find another Pinta Island Tortoise; the search has included nearby island, Isabela, where some evidence suggests the breed may soon be found in the wild Wolf Volcano area.
Back in La Pinta, the goats have been about exterminated and the island’s vegetation is returning. Perhaps the idea would be to return “Lonesome” to his home, along with another, a female, if searchers get lucky. They are urged along by a reward of $10,000 on offer for anyone discovering a La Pinta female. George, of course, ain’t getting any younger, and based on my own certain reluctance to cut the mustard these days, it will have to be a little seductive darlin’ which will eventually get him to breed. (Those type still work wonders with me…in fact, there are a few nubile lady hubbers that *&^%“!£$…well, am I alone in this!?).
Notes. The Charles Darwin Research Centre - or Station - is a biological research station funded by the Charles Darwin Foundation. It can be found at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, The Galapagos. There, in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park Service, more than 100 scientists and volunteers care for the flora and fauna of the islands, including Lonesome George.
The Galapagos Islands. (Official name, Archipielego de Colon) Is an extensive group of some 15 main islands; 3 small islands and many islets and large rocks. Very active volcanically, the islands sit above the “Galapagos Hotspot,” the last eruption was in April, 2009. The islands are mere babes in geological terms, born from volcanoes 5 to 10 million years ago. Galapagos was annexed by Ecuador - 525 miles to the east - in 1831. The islands unique ecology and species were put on the map by Charles Darwin as he travelled there in the Beagle. It is said minor differences in species found around the islands first spurred his theories on Evolution.
Although the human population is only just over 20,000, it seems this paradise for wildlife is being steadily ruined by man (again). Despite vigorous administration, illegal fishing and taking of animals such as sea-lions, sharks and other fish occurs. Apart from the aforementioned goats, man has introduced black rats, dogs and cats, pigs and donkeys, and more, which have become feral and began to destroy the island’s native creatures, either directly through predation, or by denuding their natural food plants.
Can there be hope for any part of the world’s ecology unless man - Homo sapiens - is persuaded to stop breeding? I think not, unless Nature has a way.