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RIP Lonesome George (gay or straight) - Man as God?

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 25 June 2012

Today comes the sad news of the death of a being I have met – Lonesome George. He was the last of his species, a type of tortoise from the Galapagos Islands ( the Pinta Tortoise). I had the pleasure of visiting those islands some years ago and met George and a raft of other Tortoises at a sanctuary on the island of Santa Cruz. I cannot say we were best mates or chatted for long, just that I looked at him and he looked for some food.

The Galapagos Tortoises were, of course, animals that gave Darwin a clue to this theory of evolution. On some islands where food was found a foot up in the air only Tortoises with long necks could eat and thus, over centuries the species on that island came to have long necks ( those with short necks could not eat and so died and so the gene pool was concentrated on long necks). On other islands were food was at ground level tortoises had short necks for similar reasons. I cannot remember the length of George’s neck. But he was all alone, the last of his type.

Sailors harvested these creatures as a way of handily storing food for the journey home. Man let rats onto the islands which ate the eggs. Man acted as God and destroyed. And Man now acts as God trying to encourage rare species to breed to survive. And in discouraging other species to breed with each other to create new species. Left in the wild George might have found a mate of a different sub-species and created a new species. There were attempts to mate him off with a couple of females from Wolf Island which looked a bit like him. But these failed.

Some speculated that George was, how shall we put it, not very keen on the ladies. That is irrelevant now. The world has lost George and another species bites the dust. And man has played God again but failed.

I did ask our guide at the sanctuary how they justified trying to allow gay George to create a hybrid species while denying that right to other tortoises – surely this was playing God. I cannot remember his answer. But as George heads up to a better place the facts are that man’s attempt to play God with George failed. God/evolution created his species and man destroyed it and could not even continue it in hybrid form. Farewell George , whether you were Lonesome, gay or whatever.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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