Last of His Kind: The Pinta Island Tortoise Drops Out of Life and Goes Up on View at the Museum of Natural History

“The immortal ‘Lonesome George’ will be remembered as the last of his sub-species of Galapagos tortoise.” ~Andrew Wyatt

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Lonesome George at Wildlife Preservations. (Photo by Zoë Lescaze) Lonesome George at Wildlife Preservations. (Photo by Zoë Lescaze) He was nosing his way out of an egg the size of a billiard ball as Picasso put the final dabs of paint on Ma Jolie. He was wracked with adolescent angst as the Jazz Age raged across the sea. He hit his sexual prime in the Galápagos as German troops invaded Poland.

Perhaps the war was an omen. Sex—or a severe lack thereof—was the downfall of Lonesome George, the last member of the now extinct Pinta Island subspecies of Galápagos tortoise. The giant reptile lived out his days at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where tireless researchers tried to coax him into coitus with eligible, genetically similar she-tortoises. These prospective mates were, no doubt, seductive as far as enormous, leathery behemoths go, but George snubbed them all.

Maybe it was the pressure; the world watched anxiously for years, praying…

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2 thoughts on “Last of His Kind: The Pinta Island Tortoise Drops Out of Life and Goes Up on View at the Museum of Natural History

  1. Andrew:

    I got to do a health assessment of Lonesome George in the early 1990s when we helped return a young tortoise to Isabella which was sent to us for amputation of a traumatized limb. A very memorable trip.

    Heading today to the AMNH SWRS in Portal, AZ to teach a 5-day course on Conservation Medicine and Diseases of Herpetofauna. Always a fun time.

    Elliott

  2. George was an icon for me. He was one of the main reasons I got interested in biology as a youth and ultimately chose to pursue it as a lifetime career. I miss him already.

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