R.I.P. Lonesome George

by Alicia Taggio

As I scrolled through my Twitter feed yesterday, I was taken back to discover a headline that read ‘Lonesome George dies at 100’. My heart sank, and I continued to scroll through in hopes that it wasn’t really true. But before I knew it, more and more headlines appeared from travel friends around the world verifying the truth…

It was just a few weeks ago I was in the Galapagos on an Intrepid Travel tour meeting George and admiring this magnificent creature in all of his glory.  Estimated to be more than 100 years old, Lonesome George was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when giant tortoises of his type, (Geochelone nigra abingdoni) were already believed to be extinct.

As the last surviving Pinta Tortoise, Lonesome George’s cautionary tale of extinction unfolded as a result of human actions and mismanagement of scarce resources. Tortoises were hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction; while their habitat had been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland. There were 16 species of Tortoises in the Galapagos and right now there are only 12 remaining. Out of the 16 species, Lonesome George was the last one of his kind. He became known to the world as the rarest creature on the planet and believed to be about 100 years old, weighing in at 200 lbs.

Lonesome George, Galapagos

I am so fortunate I was able meet him last month at the Galapagos National Park’s breeding center in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island.

Charles Darwin Station, Galapagos, Ecuador.

Myself and 10 other Intrepid travellers from around the world sat in front of George’s home for a solid 30 minutes just watching him in awe. We all sat there in silence admiring this giant creature move and it was an experience I will never forget.

Lonesome George, Galapagos

Before leaving the Galapagos I purchased a t-shirt from Lonesome George & Co, an apparel line that ensures 10% of every purchase directly funds youth educational programs and The Galapagos Tortoise Programme to track and protect Galapagos’ tortoises. I completely support their message of creating agents of change to ensure things like this don’t happen in the future. George served as a symbol for conservation efforts both within the Galapagos and Internationally.

RIP George. Although you will be missed, your legacy will live on.

Did you get a chance to see George? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Interested in giving back to local communities and wildlife while you travel? Visit GoVoluntouring.com to find out about projects around the world and how you can help. 

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