last of his breed
FOR MORE THAN 400 YEARS THE TORTOISES OF THE GALAPAGOS HAVE STRUGGLED FOR SURVIVAL AGAINST SUCH PERILS AS DEADLY VOLCANOES, HUNGRY SAILORS AND RANDY GOATS. ONE WHO PREVAILED IS LONESOME GEORGE
One of the earliest written records of a visit to the Gal�pagos Islands can be found in the papers of Tom�s de Berlanga, the bishop of Panama. En route to Peru in 1535 his ship stopped in search of water at this archipelago formed by volcanoes. "They found nothing but seals and turtles," he wrote, "and such big tortoises that each could carry a man on top of itself." The Spanish explorers who had discovered the islands called them Las Encantadas (The Enchanted Isles), but the name that stuck was Gal�pagos, a Spanish word meaning "saddles"—a reference to the hundreds of thousands of huge saddle-backed tortoises that roamed the beaches there.
Over the next 400 years a variety of whalers, sealers, pirates and other desperate men of opportunity came to these inhospitable islands, and over that same period of time the tortoise population steadily dwindled. In the early 1800s, whaling ships would stop to haul in as many as 600 tortoises at a time because they were one of the few sources of fresh meat. Numerous volcanic eruptions wiped out many others. Nineteenth-century settlers brought goats that bred furiously and ate all the vegetation the slower-moving tortoises fed upon.
Today only about 15,000 tortoises are left on the islands. Three of the 14 subspecies that were here when Charles Darwin made his historic visit on HMS Beagle in 1835 are extinct. Another subspecies, the Pinta, has just one representative left—Lonesome George (pictured).
In a reptilian version of Three's Company, scientists are trying to help George keep the party going by having him room with two female Wolf Volcano tortoises, a subspecies very similar to the Pinta. The hope is that one night, when the moon is right—kismet! And if kismet leads to kids, the plan is for George to breed with his descendants, thereby perpetuating his genetic line. So far, there have been some sparks but no fire between George and his consorts, but the scientists are undaunted; they know that these things take time...and George, who might live to be 150 years old, has plenty of that.
HAIR BY NICHOLAS MORELY FOR MAREK & ASSOCIATES; MAKEUP BY EMMA CARTER FOR BOBBIE BROWN ESSENTIALS; CHANDRA NORTH IN A SWIMSUIT BY CALVIN KLEIN $90
LORRAINE PASCALE IN A SWIMSUIT BY CYRA TOLEDO $98
CHANDRA NORTH IN A SWIMSUIT BY DKNY $115
NIKI TAYLOR IN A TANK TOP BY ADIDAS AND BIKINI BY MALIA MILLS SWIM WEAR $70