Monday, June 25, 2012

Lonesome George - Adiós

Lonesome George Photographed January 4, 2012
Lonesome George - Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni
El Solitario George or Lonesome George died today. We saw him back in January 2012 one of countless tourists visiting the Galápagos and passing by his pen. The sign near his pen read:

Lonesome George is the last survivor of the dynasty of land tortoises from Pinta Island. He was found in December 1971 and taken to the Charles Darwin Research Station in March 1972. All efforts to find other specimens from that island have been in vain. He is now sharing his pen with two female tortoises of the population from Wolf Volcano.

Scientists estimate that George was about 100 years old and that his subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) had become extinct. George’s carapace or shell is saddled-shaped which means that his species had to reach their necks up high to get at food - typical of tortoises found on drier islands. Tortoises with dome-shaped shells get their food close to the ground. The name of the islands comes from the word galápago from the old Spanish name for saddle, inspired by likely by the site the saddle-backed tortoises like George.

Silly yes, but when I saw George for the first time and now when reading the news of his death, a Rickie Lee Jones song comes to mind. The song is A Face in the Crowd from her 2003 album The Evening of My Best Day:

I know what it takes to be loved by you
Talk like you talk
Think like you do
You never were human so
How could you know?
We fall so hard, we can’t let go

I am the last of my kind in this town
Everyone else has gone underground…

You can find our trip overview Selected Plants of the Galápagos Islands.

Sign Near Lonesome Georges Pen (left) and a Distribution of the Galapagos Giant Tortoises at the Charles Darwin Foundation (right)
Lonesome George - Sign Near PenDistribution of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Lonesome George Photographed on January 4, 2012
Lonesome George - Chelonoidis nigra abingdoniLonesome George - Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni


  1. Only 100 years; sad day, I thought they lived upto 500 years.

  2. I think up to 200 years is the max. Yes, sad.


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