Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Becca's New and Hot-- Week 6: Lonesome George (again)

Who should I see on the front of the New York Times Science section this morning, but our old (really old, like around 70 years old) friend Lonesome George? An op-ed entitled "A Lonesome Tortoise-- and the Search for a Mate", it details the life and loves (or lack thereof) of George, perhaps the world's last remaining Geochelone nigra abingdoni. You all should actually read the article-- it's hilarious. Especially the part about "Lonesome George's girlfriend", a Swiss graduate student who-- no joke-- covered her hands in genital secretions of female tortoises and stroked him back in 1993 to investigate whether George would be capable of copulating.

All jokes aside, though, the article makes some interesting points about the ethics of conservation. If researchers do find George a mate at last, and he "agrees" to participate in mating-- which, given that he has never been exposed to a female of his species, is far from certain-- should this erase some of our collective guilt for coming so close to wiping out an entire species? And can we expect him to cooperate with our wishes? After all, it is humanity's fault that George was isolated to begin with. I agree with the writer, John Tierney, in his statement that "given George’s antisocial personality — he doesn’t like being around any other tortoises, male or female — we need to be considerate. If ultimately he’s just not that into Eve [the female Pinta turtle that will hopefully soon be found], then let Lonesome George be lonesome. We can’t expect him to save the species for our sake. It has to be good for him, too." Too true.

The full article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/science/08tier.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin. Enjoy!

Also, my Beagle review is at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product//014043268X/ref=cm_rv_thx_view/104-0496498-6403928, with everyone else's!


Robbie said...

A couple of other famous tortoises:

Harriet, a Galapagos tortoise, brought back to England by Darwin himself.

Mzee, a Aldabran tortoise, famous for befriending a hippo.

chickenpox said...

I read this article during lunch today...that whole part about showing George tortoise porn reminds me of how they tried doing that with the pandas in San Diego, and it didn't work.

Are tortoises usually picky about mates?


chickenpox said...

Poor George! Let's hope that he isn't too old to reproduce. I completely agree that it's our fault that he may not propagate his species.