The Pinta Island tortoise
This turtle is one of the few species of Giant Galapagos tortoises and the rarest animal in the world since there is only one left alive. Lonesome George is the sole surviving member of the Pinta Island race, the giant tortoise being a symbol for the fragility of the Galapagos islands, and a constant reminder for vigilence and conservation of the species. The species was considered extinct until 1971, when a lone example was located by rangers. Since then, the Charles Darwin Research Station has been searching for a female tortoise, even posting a reward of $10,000 to those that find one.
Pinta Island Tortoise was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi. The island’s vegetation had been devastated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous G. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, but although eggs have been produced, none has hatched. This tortoise is estimated to be about 100 years of age, and he is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete, and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state. The presence of mixed race Pinta ancestry tortoises around Wolf Volcano, on neighbouring Isabela island, suggests the recent presence of at least one Pinta individual near Wolf Volcano. A possible purebreed Pinta candidate, male and dubbed “Tony”, lives in a Prague zoo.