Archive for March 6th, 2009

Gorgeous george

lonesome-georgeThis here is Lonesome George.

George is the last known Pinta Island Tortoise, a subspecies of the giant tortoises that live in the Galápagos Islands. George is about 90, no age for a tortoise, in good health but he’s been known to be alone since he was discovered on the island in 1971. The island’s vegetation had been destroyed by feral goats, decimating the population of George’s fellow creatures.

The goats have gone now. After first publishing The Pinta Island Goat Recipe Cookbook, people have spent years trying to help George to mate. Even match.com has failed, so there was great excitement last year when it was discovered that he had mated with one of the two females of another subspecies who have been his companions for some time. Unfortunately in December 2008 it was announced that the eggs were infertile so the quest for George Junior goes on.  

This is a story that works on a number of levels. There are the links with Darwin, the conservation angle, the human appeal of it all. And of course, he’s a tortoise. But for me what makes this so appealing is the effort of dozens of people to try to help George and his DNA. We live on a planet that has witnessed the extinction of tens of thousands of species over hundreds of millions of years and we still care enough to get worked up about one animal of an obscure species on a remote rock in the middle of the ocean. There’s hope for us yet.

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