If you’ve been to the Galapagos Islands, or are a lover of wildlife then you’ll understand how I feel today. Amongst all the diverse and amazing wildlife, there is one iconic name that sums up this incredible region, Lonesome George. I was lucky enough to see and shoot a few elusive photos of him (he was apparently shy that day). George was the “rarest animal alive” today, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Yesterday (June 24, 2012), George died of unknown causes at an estimate age of over 100 years old (about half his expected life span). His death marked the total extinction of his subspecies. Very sad.
George was the last known individual of the subspecies of Galapagos tortoise, known as the Pinta giant tortoise. George was relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, and was penned with two females of a different subspecies. Although eggs were produced, none hatched.
It’s always sad when extinction occurs. Fact is most people never even hear of some of the animals that are extinct. But again, if you’ve visited or done any research on the Galapagos, then George is a name you are (or should be) well aware. George was rescued in 1971 and brought to the Darwin Research Center. It was the first recorded sighting of a Pinta tortoise since about 1906. Many attempts at mating George had been unsuccessful, possibly due to the lack of females of his own subspecies. Whalers and sealers heavily depleted their numbers in the 19th century, some ships taking many tortoises at a time. Females were generally taken first as they are much smaller than the males and could be found in the more accessible lowland areas during the egg laying season.
George will forever be the symbol for the conservation efforts in the Galapagos. Leave your thoughts about George in the comments!