Name: Lonesome George
Height: 40 inches
Weight: 195 pounds
Age: About 100 years old
Location: Charles Darwin Research Center, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos archipelago
Enjoys: Eating vegetation, napping, taking mud baths
The last surviving Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise has been the subject of much fanfare since his discovery in 1971. Scientists have searched for others and have tried mating him with similar species to no avail.
The average life span of a Galapagos tortoise in the wild is more than 100 years; some in captivity have been known to live more than 150 years. And tortoises have been around for 200 million years, which means they lived at the same time as dinosaurs.
With all this longevity, you might wonder how the Galapagos tortoise ended up on the endangered species list. Hunting for meat and by products decimated their numbers from about 250,000 in the 16th century to 3,000 in the 1970s. Since they can live a year without food or drink and are reportedly quite tasty (“…the young tortoises make excellent soup,” Darwin wrote), giant tortoises were popular shipboard fare in the 19th century. They are also not challenging to catch: they amble along at .16 miles per hour compared to the human gait of 2.8 miles per hour. Through conservation, their numbers have now risen to more than 15,000.
Just how big is a Galapagos tortoise? The animals, for which the archipelago is named, grow from approximately 2.5 inches and 2 ounces as hatchlings to, on average for males, 4 feet and 475 pounds. They can, however, mature to more than 5 feet in length and weigh 600 pounds.
Another interesting fact about these creatures is that their eggs, when incubated at a cooler temperature, produce males while a warmer climate produces females.
Calling all Pinta Island female tortoises that might be playing hard to get: Have we got a handsome, famous and mature bachelor for you. Turn yourself in for a $10,000 reward!