Lonesome George: The End of the Line? Yes.

Betty just called to say that Lonesome George died on Sunday. We saw him in Galapagos Islands in 2005. Though he had lots of girl friends he never had any viable babies. His species is gone forever with his passing.


The sign, below, reads:

“Many of the endangered populations of Galapagos tortoises have been brought back from the edge of extinction through our breeding, rearing and repatriation program. But others, like the Pinta Island tortoise, face a precarious future. Lonesome George, the last tortoise found on Pinta Island, is a sad reminder of the results of thoughtless exploitation by humans.”

It continues:

“In the 1800s whalers carried off thousands of Pinta tortoises for their “sweet meate”. Tortoises were also hunted for their oil. Oil hunters slaughtered the animals where they found them, leaving scenes of grim devastation.   (A picture of the slaughter on a sign at Galapagos.)  In the 1950s, goats* were introduced to Pinta; changing the island’s environment forever. In their wake, they left little food and no shelter for the Pinta tortoise, and destroyed their nesting sites.” 

And continues, below the center photo (with blue sky) on the sign:

“Alone and surrounded by devastated vegetation, Lonesome George spends his last days on Pinta (Island) before being moved to the Tortoise Rearing Center in 1972.”

And continues, to the right of Lonesome George’s big photo:

“The Search for a Suitable Mate – The search for any females on Pinta and among other captive tortoises in the world continues in the hopes of finding a mate for George. George lives with two females (who are) from Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island; they are considered his closest genetic relations. However, George, for unknown reasons, will not breed.”

It finishes, lower right of the sign:

“Can we save the Pinta Island Tortise? Scientists use blood samples from giant Galapagos tortoises and others found worldwide to study genetic variation. In the future, this information will be used to choose a close genetic match for Lonesome George. Less than one in several thousand attempts at cloning succeed. Since cloning George would be extremely costly and likely fail, it will only be considered when all other potions have been exhausted.”

*Introduced goats still ravage  the various islands. A goat was caught by one of our guides on one of the islands we visited. I watched it be killed (she was pregnant with twins), skinned, and roughly cleaned on the island. Back on the boat fresh goat curry was served for dinner that night. Tasty! Was that mutually enhancing?

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