Global environmental challenges
“Lonesome George” may cheat extinction
So “Lonesome George” might become a Dad?
In lists of endangered creatures such as black rhinos, orang utans, tigers or blue whales, ”Lonesome George” has long had the saddest status as the only one known survivor of the Pinta island species of Galapagos giant tortoise.
That has made him the “rarest living creature” for the Guinness Book of Records.
But now my colleague Alonso Soto in Quito reports that he’s mated with one of his two female companions of a similar species and keepers have found several eggs in his pen. If they hatch, they would at least preserve half of his genes.
Good on you, George! It would be an amazing turnaround after he has kept the species a heartbeat away from oblivion, showing little interest in sex in 36 years in captivity.
The Darwin Foundation has explained his problems by saying “he probably grew up alone and did not learn proper social and mating behaviour” even though he is in his sexual prime for a tortoise, aged about 60 to 90.
I visited the Galapagos Islands on a holiday in the late 1980s and went to Lonesome George’s enclosure –I can imagine that he was put off thinking of anything but survival because tourists were allowed to wander right up to him. The constant disturbances by people trampling around him can hardly have put him in a romantic mood. And maybe he’d been holding out in vain to meet an ideal Pinta mate?