Lonesome George

Lonesome George (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii) is the name of a giant tortoise, believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies and had become an ambassador of sorts for the islands off Ecuador’s coast, whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution. The giant tortoise has died recently, as announced by the Galapagos National Park.

This possibly 100 year old tortoise had failed efforts to produce offspring by mating females of close subspecies so that his subspecies could be kept alive.

  • Lonesome George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme. After 15 years of living with a female tortoise from the nearby Wolf volcano, Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile.
  • He became a symbol of the Galapagos Islands, which attract some 180,000 visitors a year. With George’s death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become extinct.

His body would be embalmed to conserve him for future generations.

Factbox: Tortoises Threatened

Here are some tortoises which are in trouble:

  1. Ploughshare tortoises
    Ploughshare tortoise or angonoka tortoise is a critically endangered species of tortoise endemic to Madagascar. There are only a few hundred left in the wild and they are critically endangered. Poachers known as “the tortoise mafia” and locals who eat tortoise meat threaten Madagascar’s rare tortoises, which include the Ploughshare, Spider, Radiated and Flat-tailed species.
  2. Galapagos Giant tortoises
    Vulnerable Galapagos Giant tortoises are largest living species of tortoise and 10th-heaviest living reptile, reaching weights of over 400 kg. They mate in a way which means that the female is not crushed by the male. Please note that Lonesome George was a member of one of the 11 subspecies of Galapagos Giant tortoises.
  3. Radiated tortoises are one of the world’s most beautiful species. They are only found in southern scrublands in Madagascar.
  4. Burmese starred tortoises are also listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. They get their name from the striking yellow and dark brown star pattern on their shells.
  5. Kleinmann’s tortoise, also known as the Egyptian tortoise, is the smallest of the Mediterranean species.

Tortoises of Galapagos Islands

  • Tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos Islands until the late 19th century, but were later hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction.
  • Their habitat furthermore suffered when goats were introduced from the mainland. Some 20,000 giant tortoises of other subspecies still live on the Galapagos.
  • The Galapagos’ giant tortoise population was decimated after the arrival of humans but a recovery program run by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has increased the overall population from 3,000 in 1974 to 20,000 today. With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world
  • The differences in appearance between tortoises from different Galapagos islands were among the features which helped the British naturalist Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution.

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  • Adnan
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