When Lonesome George died, the whole world thought that another tortoise subspecies was extinct. However, the death of the iconic Galapagos tortoise didn’t mark the end of his species as a scientific exploration has discovered genetically similar tortoises living on the flanks of a volcano.
Scientists now believe, there were at least eight species of Galapagos tortoises. At least three of them are now extinct, including the one on Pinta Island. In 1972, George was discovered wandering alone when he was taken into loving custody. He died in 2012 at the age of more than a hundred years. It was a reminder, a warning about the decay created by humans on infirm ecosystems worldwide over the last two centuries.
Three years after his death, scientists in US and Ecuador believe that there is a way to bring him back-using pioneering methods to resuscitate the extinct Pinta Island species that George belonged to.
“I don’t think this has ever been attempted before,” James Gibbs, professor of vertebrate conservation biology at State University of New York told The Telegraph. He hopes that the Pinta tortoises might not be extinct after all. “We can’t bring back an exact copy of George, as he was genetically unique. But we do now think we can go a long way towards restoring a species with 95 percent of the same DNA.”
Professor Gibbs headed up a team last month that travelled to the Galapagos to look into the remaining tortoises where they found a colony near Banks Bay, on the Wolf volcano and captured 32 of them-21 females and 11 males.
“They are very busy, very happy, exploring, and doing aggregation displays,” said Adalgisa Caccone, a researcher at Yale University and the expedition’s geneticist.
Their next step is to look at each animal’s DNA and choose the ones with least mixed clan. According to Dr. Caccone, if she had the funding the process would take less than a month. There is a plan to go back next year to look for more.