Saving Other Turtles From Lonesome George's Fate

October 24, 2012

The recent death of "Lonesome George"--the last of our planet's Pinta Island tortoises--reminds us of these creatures' fragility. Although we've been working to conserve turtles and tortoises for decades, risks that include global trade persist. 

This summer marked the sad and untimely death of the most famous tortoise in the world, Lonesome George. When speaking of turtles and tortoises time, of course, is a relative thing. At an estimated 100 years of age, this Galapagos native was still relatively young by the standards of his genus. Nevertheless, with his demise on June 24, the Pinta Island tortoise is believed to have officially gone extinct.

George and his fellow Pinta Island tortoises fell victim to centuries of relentless exploitation and callous interference by humans into the fantastically-adapted seascape so wonderfully documented by the great naturalist Charles Darwin nearly 200 years ago. Mariners removed giant tortoises from the islands to serve as food on long voyages while introduced goats thrived in the Galapagos on the vegetation that previously sustained tortoises like George.

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