Charles Darwin Station

Thu, 2011-07-21 15:13
20. July 2011
Here man tries to repair the damage of previous generations; to replace the loss of an estimated quarter million turtles taken aboard ships as meat reserve or killed for their oil.

For two of the fifteen different species, perfectly adapted to the different habitats on the islands, help came too late. Several more are close to extinction; on one island the population had been down to just a dozen females and two young males. All were collected and brought here; a worldwide search discovered another male in the San Diego zoo; a breeding program is now under way. 


But even if re-breeding is successful - the genetic pool of this species is thinned out, which limits their genetic variation and therefore their ability to adapt to change.

Probably the saddest example of the historic decimation is famous Lonesome George; a single male turtle, believed to be the left-over of the population of a whole island. If so he probably is the last of his species – already a living fossil. Maybe George is aware of his fate; he lies there, back to the curious human visitors, fat and lazy – if he was a human you would diagnose a typical case of depression. 


In a vain attempt the scientists have put two females of a related species in his compound, hoping for a cross-breed; so far without success, it seems the ladies don’t want to be connected to an evolutionary looser. Poor George is already history.


0° 44' 29.6016" S, 90° 19' 8.9508" W