Will Lonesome George ever rest in peace? A bizarre custody battle
For years, Lonesome George was the Galapagos Island’s most famous inhabitant. In fact, he was probably the world’s most famous single living animal on the planet. Thought to be the last living member of the Pinta Island subspecies of giant tortoise, for most of his twilight years George was an international symbol of conservation – a living and breathing example of what is happening to many species around the world.
Sadly, George died back in June 2012, and with him the last of the Pinta Island tortoises. However, that was not to be the end of the story or the controversy. In 2014, George’s body was transported to the Museum of Natural History in New York, where it was treated by taxidermists and put on display.
The plan was to return George to his home in the Galapagos Islands where he had been such a popular feature of Galapagos tours. However, the Ecuadorian government, to whom the islands belong, has said that George will be staying permanently in the capital. They claim that in order to preserve the body, it requires special conditions including moisture, temperature and security measures, which simply aren’t available on the islands.
George was about 100 years old when he died, although scientists had expected him to live for several more decades. Perhaps being so lonesome got to him in the end? Several attempts were made to get George to mate with other females of different subspecies to preserve his line but he just didn’t seem to be interested. There were also plans to take George on a world tour where he could highlight the environmental danger faced by many other species. Some even believe that he could still carry out this role today.
However, the Galapagos Islanders are naturally a little upset by the fact their most famous son has been taken away from them. They believe that his rightful place is on the islands where he was born and lived. He could still be an integral part of Galapagos tours and would serve as an excellent example of why every effort should be made to preserve the islands as they are and restrict further damage to indigenous species.
Already, almost all tours take place on board yachts in order to limit the damage done by humans to the islands. Stay aboard luxury yachts and enjoy Galapagos tours in style, without having a negative impact on this amazing place. It’s what George would have wanted.