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On the Darwinian paradise of the Galapagos , resides a lumbering solitary giant, of gentle, shy nature, fondly dubbed by humans worldwide as 'Lonely George'.

Weighing 90kg, aged between fifty and eighty years and measuring about a metre long, Lonely George is the last tortoise of its subspecies Geochelone elephantophus abingdoni Its species is one of the 11 rare tortoise types so important for the formation of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. So if this tortoise decides to call it a day without leaving an heir, earth will be writing down another species on her 'extinct' list.

George was found on the Ecuadorian volcanic cluster Pinta, thirty years ago. He was the only remaining member of his species to have escaped the scourges of pirates, whale-hunters and yes, goats, the latter being introduced by farmers in the 1950's and decimating the entire tortoise's habitat. He was possibly just minding his own buisness, grateful of not being turned into a lamp, (which was what most 16th century visitors to the islands did with local tortoises), when he was captured by human scientists, intent on having him mate wheteher he liked it or not.

Determined, the humans tried to mate him with females of other subspecies, and apparently george did oblige and give in to their wishes, however the repltile did not quite seem up to copulating, running out of steam very quickly.

Why is this so? Perhaps the tortoise is too old, or pehaps too disinterested, or perhaps decided that the world was going to the dogs anyway so why bring more of his kind if their fate was to be turned into souvenirs for spanish housewives? Maybe he doesn't even like kids. Or perhaps it is just the Curse Of The Tortoise which befell him and made him impotent.

Actually, scientists agree that probably all Lonely George needs to get him off is a female of his own subspecies. Indeed. Give the tortoise a break.

Will the tantric tortoise ever sire an heir? That is yet to be seen. Cloning and in-vitro fertilisation have been ruled out as too expenisive as yet. However, it is speculated that giant tortoises live from a hundred to a hundred and fifty years. Perhaps a shy Geochelone elephantophus abingdoni female will appear mysteriously out of some volcanic crack or something... who knows?

So hang in there George.

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