Saturday, May 5, 2007

Lonesome George

Lonesome George

Lonesome George image courtsey:

Lonesome George, the Giant Tortoise of Galapagos Island.

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:

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 Pinta Island in 1971 by people who went for goat hunting. It is believed that he was named George mimicking the Hollywood actor George Gobel. He was relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station for research, years of solitude is blamed to be the reason for his melancholic look. Lonesome George preferred to be lonely despite all the efforts of the naturalists to see him leading a happy married life with scores of siblings. It was their frustration which made them to award him the beautiful title “Lonesome George!”

Chronic bachelor.

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:

Of late it has been reported that they could find one tortoise; somewhat related to his species from Isabella Island,

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, Giant tortoises Sea lions etc filled the landscape in the absence of human and other predators. Unfortunately this paradise did not last long as fate took a deviation.

Man the predator!

Image courtsey:

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:

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 Santa Cruz Island. These tortoises have highly influenced Darwin in shaping his theory “the origin of species”. Darwin took 2 males and 12 females to his research station. This research station does valuable service in hatching eggs of tortoises (which are on the verge of extinction) nurse them to mature and then releasing them to the wild.

George the obstinate!

Michael Russello of the University of British Columbia Okanagan has stated that George is unwilling to pass over his unique genes to the next generation and going to break the chain of genetic continuity. In his words “Even after 35 years, Lonesome George seems uninterested in passing on his unique genes and has failed to produce offspring” But George is not listening!

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!


Natali Brust said...

Thank you for the visit.
God Bless you.
"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV).

Anonymous said...

thanx natali
pray along with man all other creatures also flourish in this little heaven of ours

Jules said...

Awww George is so cute! I think I have a little turtle crush on him. I hope he finds a bride!

Fahimah Badrulhisham said...

hey sasi kumar

i loved your article
although i havent seen george, i love him. i hope he does mate and share his genes..

c'mon, george! take one for the team :)

Fd said...

little turtoise crush?

Philippe said...

George is so cute! Lonesome George, the last remaining Galápagos giant tortoise, may soon be a father after years of efforts by scientists trying to get him to mate. Ecuadorian officials are keeping their fingers crossed for Lonesome George, aged between 90 and 100 and described by the Guinness book of world records as the "rarest living creature", after one of the two female tortoises kept with him laid five eggs.