IUCN Species of the Day: Pinta Island Tortoise
Photo credit: Patrick J. Endres
The Pinta Island Tortoise, Chelonoidis (nigra) abingdonii, is listed as ‘EXTINCT IN THE WILD’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. While there is some scientific disagreement as to whether the various Galapagos tortoises represent separate species or subspecies, all agree that Lonesome George is the last surviving individual of his kind.
The species was driven to near-extinction by collection for consumption by whalers and other Galapagos settlers, with Lonesome George being found in 1972. He was moved to the Charles Darwin Research Station in the hope that a female might be found for a captive breeding programme, but this has not happened.
Recent research, however, has demonstrated that Lonesome George’s genotype is still represented among wild tortoises on Isabela Island, likely the result of a ship dropping some Pinta Island Tortoises overboard in an emergency long ago, after which some of them drifted ashore and interbred with the local tortoises. Genetic screening and selective back-crossing offers new hope that Lonesome George’s lineage could be partially restored.
Geographic Range of the Pinta Island Tortoise
Credit: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™
To learn more about the Pinta Island Tortoise, click here. Or visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ by clicking their logo below.
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