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Lonesome George



The most famous resident of Santa Cruz Island is about 80 years old, has no teeth, and weighs somewhere around 200 pounds. His face has all the wrinkles you’d expect for someone his age; he has a sort of worn, leathery look about him that reflects a life mostly spent outdoors. He’s in good health for his age, however, and enjoys his vegetarian diet; he has a penchant for papayas. He is a full-time resident of the Charles Darwin Research Station, where they sincerely wish that he would have more sex. They call him Lonesome George, and he is the last surviving Pinta Island Giant Tortoise.

In many ways, George’s story is Galápagos in a nutshell: he is beautiful, majestic and unforgettable, and he has suffered greatly at the hands of humans, who wiped out (directly or indirectly) all of the other members of his species. Like all of the other tortoise species in Galápagos, the Pinta ones were once taken by passing ships for food. This drastically reduced their numbers, and competition for food from goats made life even harder for the survivors. There came a time when scientists listed the Pinta Island Tortoises as extinct and had given up hope of finding any. Then, in 1972, a passing yacht broke the news: they had seen a tortoise on Pinta. Scientists rushed there and sure enough, found George, who has lived at the Charles Darwin Research Station ever since.

Efforts are ongoing to find him a mate. Occasional expeditions return to Pinta, with no luck. Females of closely-related tortoise species are kept in his pen, but the eggs they have produced failed to hatch. Do you happen to have a female Pinta Island Giant Tortoise? The reward is up to $10,000!



By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
24 Mar 2011

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