21 July 2009
Puerto Ayora, Galapagos
Hopes Soar at the Prospect of Obtaining a Descendant for Lonesome George
This past Saturday, Female No. 107, one of the two female tortoises who shares a corral with Lonesome George—the last Pinta Island Tortoise in the world—and who laid a nest for the first time back in 2008, returned to nest again this year. In the conservation world and in Galapagos, hopes are high that the eggs from her nest will produce a descendent for Lonesome George—the emblematic reptile of the Galapagos Islands.
Yesterday afternoon, guards opened the nest and five eggs were found in perfect condition. These eggs were removed, weighed, measured, and placed in artificial incubators at the Giant Tortoise Center for Reproduction and Captive Breeding at the Galapagos National Park. Now we must wait 120 days for the incubation process to unfold before learning if the eggs are fertile.
Because of the need to try to bring back the Pinta tortoise species (Geochelone abingdoni) from the brink of extinction, the five eggs were placed in an incubator kept at a temperature of 29.5 ° C, which will allow for the growth of female tortoises instead of males.
Female No. 107 and her female companion No. 106 are from the species Geochelone becki, originally from Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. They have a carapace that is shaped similar to the shell of Lonesome George. Since 1993, the three tortoises have shared a corral, with the hope that they might eventually reproduce together.
In July of 2008, both female tortoises laid nests for the first time. But, hopes were dashed when all of the eggs were declared infertile near the end of the year. This time around in 2009, scientists are hopeful, but not optimistic, that this latest nest will produce a descendant for Lonesome George and his near-extinct species of Pinta Giant Tortoises.