Conservationists are delighted at news that Lonesome George, the last remaining giant tortoise of his kind, may soon become a father … at the age of 90.
Last Tuesday, amazed keepers discovered a clutch of unhatched eggs in his “bachelor” pen in the Galapagos Islands.
No wonder they were amazed – a team of scientists have been doggedly coaxing the sullen creature to mate since 1993, when they introduced two female tortoises of a different subspecies into his pen. Until now, George, the last known Pinta Island tortoise had shown little interest in his companions. But at age 90, George, now said to be in his sexual prime, was finally spurred into action.
Officials at the Galapagos National Park said the five eggs were “in perfect condition” and have been transferred to an incubator.
A spokesman said, “Now we have to wait for the incubation period of 120 days to find out whether they are fertile.”
Galapagos Tortoises, among the species Charles Darwin observed to formulate his theory of evolution in the 19th century, were hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland.
Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos, and are subject to a determined conservation effort.
Image Credit – sly06 on flickr
Andrew is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.