After nearly a century of life, Lonesome George, the last Galápagos Giant Tortoise of his species, may soon become a daddy.
Last Saturday guards found a friendly surprise upon opening the nest in George’s corral: five laid eggs, in perfect condition. The eggs were immediately measured, weighed, then carefully transferred to the Giant Tortoise Center for Reproduction and Captive Breeding . Now researchers must play nature’s waiting game, as it will take 120 days (November) to find out if the incubated eggs are fertile.
For years scientists have been struggling to get Lonesome George to procreate, after scientists discovered the near-extinction of his species on the Pinta island of the Galapagos islands and brought him into captivity at the Charles Darwin research station in 1972. However, the endangered reptile’s low libido has severely complicated the survival of his species. In efforts to resurrect the Pinta island tortoise, researchers spiced up the solitary George’s living arrangements by giving him new roommates: two female tortoises (given the mundane monikers No. 107 and No. 106).
Although researchers hoped the ménage à tortoise would be a success, the fickle and disinterested George never budged until 2008, when after 36 years of captivity he finally mated with both females; unfortunately, the eggs turned out to be infertile. The newly laid eggs by Female No. 107 have reignited hope in scientists, and although there are no certainties, they are trying to remain optimistic.
Even if the eggs end up infertile, George has mated twice in two years – quite the fertile feat for the old giant. May the reptile revolution persist!
To learn more about the Lonesome George and the plight of his species, visit the Galapagos Conservatory.
Rachel Anderson is a staff writer/editor for VIVA Travel Guides.