This week’s Epic Creature is one of (if not THE) rarest living animal on the planet today; there is only one known Pinta Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) left alive. As far as we know, the only Pinta Tortoise left is a male – His name is Lonesome George. There is a reward of $10,000 offered by Darwin Station to whom ever finds a female to mate with George and save this species.
The Pinta Island Tortoise is a subspecies of the Galapagos Tortoise that evolved separately on the Pinta Island. A tortoise is a land dwelling reptile - this is what makes the tortoise different from the turtle. Turtles are amphibian (start their lives in water) whereas tortoises are land dwelling only. These tortoises are large, weighing about 400Kg(880lb) and reaching 1.8m(5.9ft) in length. They have four legs, a tail and a head on a long neck. The body of the tortoise is protected with a thick shell, which these creatures are very famous for.
Pinta Island tortoises are “keystone creatures”, meaning they eat vegetation and fruit on the island and defecate the seeds which helps the plant life cycle and allows sustainable food for the tortoise. These tortoises started to become endangered because feral goats were introduced to the island and started devouring all the vegetation, not leaving enough for the tortoises to survive. The tortoises had not encountered such a problem before and did not have any adaption to help survive and they started dying.
Tortoises are also known to be able to live a very long time - Lonesome George is believed to be about 100 years old and is very healthy. The feral goats that destroyed most of the species have since been removed from the island and the vegetation has start to grow back, giving Lonesome George his food back and a chance to live a little longer.
Lonesome George has mated with other species of tortoise but they were not successful. If we cannot find a female for Lonesome George to mate with then this species of tortoise will finally become extinct.
This week’s creature is Epic because it is the rarest known creature on the planet (though I wish I were writing about it for a better reason.) I hope that sometime in the future Lonesome George can have the family he’s always dreamed of and I can scratch this creature off the list!