Lonesome George, the Giant Tortoise of
One hundred years of solitude.
George is the only surviving member of one of the sub species of Galapagos Archipelago. Of the 14 subspecies of giant tortoise native to the Galapagos Archipelago 3 have already become extinct. If George dies without fathering a child, the number of surviving subspecies of Galapagos tortoise may drop to 10. Therefore the onus is on Lonesome George - our hero- to see his tribe survive. Many attempts have been made by the naturalists of “The Charles Darwin Research Station” to find a life partner to this lonesome figure.
A Guinness book celebrity.
lonesome george image courtsey: serrin.blogter.hu
Lonesome George is no ordinary tortoise; his name has been recorded as one of the rarest creatures in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’. He is 88 kilograms in weight and aged between 70 and 80. His wrinkled and sad looking face has become an icon environmental degradation worldwide. Scientists of the Research station toil night and day to find a bride to this celebrity. Not knowing what the fuzz is going around George leads a care-free life eating good food and roaming free in the station with one female tortoise provided by the authorities to give him company.
No to cupids!
George was found from the
A gift of $10,000 is waiting unclaimed for the person who can arrange a suitable bride to this chronic bachelor. Many tortoise beauties of related species were allowed to visit and stay with him, but all of them failed miserably in shaking George’s pledge to bachelorhood. He is simply not prepared to part with the genotype he alone possesses and seems happy to be alone. The survival of his species is the head ache of the naturalists and George doesn’t seem to worry about his subspecies ‘Geochelone nigra abingdoni’! Of which he belongs.
If winter is here......!
Galapagos Archipelago image courtsey: wikipedia.org
Of late it has been reported that they could find one tortoise; somewhat related to his species from
it was a pity that this too turned to be a male. The incurable optimists of the station are not disheartened, “If there is a male, there must be sisters to him; search for them”. The new one a hybrid between Pinta and Isabella varieties contains 50% of the genotype like that of George and can be compared to the status of a cousin. This news has cheered naturalists; world over, but wait to rejoice, first the ‘sister’ if any has to be located; there are many other stumbling blocks for the wedding to consummate.
80 years young.
The main problem is that tortoise’s sex organs atrophy (becoming non functional) if not used. Moreover whether he will “tie the knot” also remains to be seen as he has rejected all the previous cases. George is about 70 to 80 years old, and can be compared to a middle aged person as average age of a Galapagos tortoise is about 120 years and above.
Not one...there were 14.
Galapagos tortoises appear to be strange creatures with their long telescopic necks, highly curved carapaces (the hard shell of tortoise) and massive body structure. They were formerly believed to be of the same subspecies, but it was Charles Darwin who established the existence of subspecies among them 14 at that time (now only 11) including one member abingdoni (George).
A short-lived paradise.
The archipelago of Galapagos consists of 13 main volcanic islands and many small islets (located about 600 miles south east from Ecuador South America). These isles remained lifeless for many centuries later birds began to visit leadings to the dispersal of plant-seeds. Trees and plants flourished in this fertile island. First arrived the aquatic animals like tortoise, then the terrestrial ones. Marine Iguanas,
Man the predator!
Image courtsey: answers.com
The early 18th century witnessed human migration in large scale they did not spare this little paradise also. Animals and pests which came along with man like goats, dogs, pigs rats etc wreaked havoc among the so far happily co-existed bio-system. Tortoises began to disappear as their eggs were eaten away by dogs and pigs. Goats went wild and savored anything that lmmooked green. Galapagos Archipelago turned out to be a naturalist’s nightmare as all the exotic species of rare animals annihilated by wanton greed and utter carelessness.
Charles Darwin the savior.
Charles Darwin image courtsey: answers.com
Charles Darwin’s visit to this island in 1865 was the first thing that marked an end to the wanton desecration of this virtual paradise. He established his research center in
George the obstinate!
Michael Russello of the
Loss of status...? ...Who cares!
The discovery of another member of his tribe if confirmed may rob George’s place in the Guinness book as a very rare creature as there may be one more to share the status. George does not know he is a Guinness book pager and about the threat to his status; as far as food and company is available in the station George is a happy lot (even though his face exudes melancholy! Lonesome George is not responsible for naturalists’ urge to see him as a proud father of many siblings. God Bless Lonesome George! And the unique genes he carries!