A year ago, the Galapagos lost a very beloved creature by the name of Lonesome George. Known to the world as the rarest creature on the planet and believed to be over 100 years old, this Giant Tortoise lived the last few decades of his life at the Galapagos National Park’s breeding center in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. I was lucky enough to meet George on my Intrepid Travel tour last May; merely a few weeks before his passing.
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. Sadly, 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 11 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.
As I sat in front of George admiring his every move, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for this moment that life presented to me. His movements were slow, but captivating. This was the first time in all of my travels that I was completely speechless. It was one of those moments where you put down your camera, and just take in the experience that lays before you. I did managed to capture a bit of video of him which you can find at the very end of this video.
The Galapagos Islands are truly like no other place on Earth. They are an archipelago of 13 major islands and more than a hundred smaller islands that straddle the Equator off the Ecuadorian coast. In a nutshell, you need to get your ass down there and experience it.
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 proudly wear it to this very day and bring it with me on my travels.
George served as a symbol for conservation efforts both within the Galapagos and Internationally and has become an agent of change. To me, he has become the catalyst of awareness, and the enabler of innovative futures.
RIP George. May your legacy live on.