Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his kind may not have babies after all. The single survivor of the Pinta Island Galapagos giant tortoises, Lonesome George has been an icon for conservation the world over. The big tortoise was paired with two female tortoises, and successfully mated with them for the first time in over 35 years just a few months ago. (The females are of another subspecies of the Galapagos Tortoise, but are of a close genetic match to the Pinta Island subspecies.)
Unfortunately, most of the eggs produced by this encounter are likely infertile. There is still hope for 20% of the eggs. Researchers are keeping the eggs in incubators covered in religious symbols, waiting for a miracle. I myself am crossing my fingers. At 90 years old, the tortoise is still in his prime, but with several decades of failure I am a bit guarded. Scientists have tried many means to get George interested in breeding and have even tried artificial insemination. All of it with no luck.
The largest land tortoises in the world, Galapagos Tortoises can weigh over 500 pounds and live well over 100 years. Since their discovery, only 11 of the 14 known subspecies of the tortoise survive today. The big reptiles were used as a food source and ballasts on pirate, whaling, and trader ships in the past. More recently, introduced rats and goats have been destroying food sources and eating the eggs of the highly endangered tortoise.
It is clear that humans are likely solely responsible for the tortoises declining numbers. Lonesome George provides hope that humans may use their knowlege to do something good. It is unlikely the researchers in the Galapagos will give up with this latest disappointment. They had over 36 years of set-backs, there is still hope.
Tell us what you think! Will successful breeding of Lonesome George with the hybrid females be considered a success for the species, or simply the creation of another hybrid?
Learn more about Galapagos Tortoises from the San Diego Zoo at:
News Source: Associated Press US News: