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"Lonesome George," The Galapagos Tortoise

Updated on October 21, 2010

"All the world is wonderful, only man is vile." (The Bard)

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Animals are so tame on the Galapagos Islands, they are easily approached and killed by hunters.Lonesome George's plight has stirred people everywhere.The Galapagos' ideal weather and beauty has turned the island's into a vacationer's top pick.
Animals are so tame on the Galapagos Islands, they are easily approached and killed by hunters.
Animals are so tame on the Galapagos Islands, they are easily approached and killed by hunters.
Lonesome George's plight has stirred people everywhere.
Lonesome George's plight has stirred people everywhere.
The Galapagos' ideal weather and beauty has turned the island's into a vacationer's top pick.
The Galapagos' ideal weather and beauty has turned the island's into a vacationer's top pick.

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.

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    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Amanda. I think both your suggestions may be true. The greedy annex more than they need (look at the huge properties in the UK and we have no room to move). Then, I think over-population puts the seal on failure.

      Yes, Zuri, I would love to go there one day. And Eiddwen, I'm a sucker for all creatures, too...Bob

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      Such an interesting hub

      I am a sucker when it comes to reading anything on animals ,nature etc however this was a new one for me so twice as good

      Take care dogenes.

    • profile image

      Zuri 7 years ago

      The Galapagos Islands are the most incredible living museum of evolutionary changes, with a huge variety of endemic species (birds, land and sea animals, plants) and landscapes not seen anywhere else.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Bob, too bad that man causes such havoc everywhere he goes. Are there too many of us, do you think? Or is it more the case that we are constantly annexing vast tracts of the natural world for profit and greed, without considering the impact on our fellow creatures?

      I hope they are successful in finding a partner for Lonesome George. It's sad to be the last of a kind.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi HH. That saying originated with Shakespeare, I believe. He said, "All the world is wonderful, only man is vile."

      All the best...Bob

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      As always a wonderful hub. Humans really can be proud of themselves. I never forget at the end of the war when one army after another swooped over Germany a Russian soldiers from the Ukrain said, "God made trees, sky, sun, animals all beautiful and then he made man." Never a truer word spoken.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I can only hope you are right, DiamondRN

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 7 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      The "hope for the world's ecology," Diogenes, is the return of Jesus; when His feet touch the Mount of Olives! -- Zechariah 14:3-5

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