Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon


Lonesome George, the sole survivor of a giant tortoise species, has come to embody the challenges of conservation today. His story captures the mystery, complexity, and fragility of the world's most biodiverse spot—the Galapagos Islands—via sexual dysfunction, Charles Darwin, kidnapping, cloning, DNA fingerprinting and ecotourism. In the end, George's lonesome story echos the experiences and discoveries of conservationalists worldwide.
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Lonesome George, the sole survivor of a giant tortoise species, has come to embody the challenges of conservation today. His story captures the mystery, complexity, and fragility of the world's most biodiverse spot—the Galapagos Islands—via sexual dysfunction, Charles Darwin, kidnapping, cloning, DNA fingerprinting and ecotourism. In the end, George's lonesome story echos the experiences and discoveries of conservationalists worldwide.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Lonesome George is a five-foot, 200-pound Gal pagos giant tortoise whose age is somewhere between 60 and 200 years. First seen in 1971 on the island of Pinta, part of the Gal pagos Archipelago, George is apparently the only surviving member of his species and now lives in captivity at a research center on the Gal pagos Islands. Science writer Nicholls (ed., The Encyclopedia of Life Sciences) offers more than the story of a conservation icon; it is also a history of the Gal pagos tortoise, a tale of life on the high seas, and a treatise on the conflict between conservationists' aims and the interests of locals. (There is a sort of dry humor in Nicholls's description of George's habits that also makes the book read like an adventure novel.) The discussion of conservation is not limited to the Gal pagos area, touching on issues in various areas of the world. Readers will notice a British slant to the writing and British spelling throughout the text. This book is quite specialized and should interest conservationists and researchers with an interest in tortoises and/or the Gal pagos area.-Deborah Emerson, Rochester Regional Lib. Council, Fairport, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Like the best human-focused biographers, Nicholls uses his unusual subject as a springboard into more universal territory. He aptly portrays Lonesome George as a sort of reptilian Forrest Gump, an unwitting bystander continually thrust to the forefront as society's defining crises play themselves out around him."—Wired


"This marvellous look at the conservation of nature, as embodied in one enormous reptile, is highly recommended."—Nancy Bent, Booklist


"Is he gay, impotent or just bored? Read this fascinating book for the full story. It skilfully blends historical derring-do with cutting-edge conservation biology."—NewScientist

"Told with real affection and humour...a fitting tribute to one of the voiceless victims of human progress."—Guardian


"A warmly enjoyable book...a pleasure to read."—www.popularscience.co.uk

"Nicholls' lively tale takes the reader on a journey through the Galapagos - and how much there is to lose."—BBC Focus Magazine


"This is a wonderful tale of an almost mythical beast. Rich in historical detail George's story is one of pathos, despair and hope with some quirky reproductive biology thrown in for good measure. Nicholls has done us all a service, reminding us of the fragility of life in general and of one very special chelonian in particular." — Tim Birkhead, author of Promiscuity and The Red Canary


"Not simply the story of a tortoise but the tale of that icon of evolution, the Galápagos archipelago, and of the heroics and (sometimes) seeming futility of the conservation movement. The science is compelling, the tone is light - highly recommended."—Olivia Judson, Seed Magazine


"It is a cracking tale - and crackingly well told. It is also salutary. Giant tortoises are indeed extraordinary - but not as strange as human beings."—Colin Tudge, author of The Secret Life of Trees

"If Darwin were alive today he would be fascinated by Henry Nicholls' splendid account of this solitary survivor from Pinta Island. A must for anyone who cares about extinction or has a soft spot for the remarkable history of a very singular animal."—Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: A Biography


“The literary device of placing a reptilian icon at the centre of a dynamic play about science, conservation and our attitudes to nature results in a highly readable book that has much to say about the ways we flounder around in our attempts to protect things that seem important to us.” —Nature

“Lonesome George will do for the cause of science and preservation in the Galápagos what Jonathan Weiner's The Beak of the Finch did a decade before—entertain, enlighten and encourage us all to do our part to preserve not just these islands, but Earth itself.” —Michael Shermer, author of In Darwin's Shadow, in THES


“Nicholls is a brilliant storyteller and narrative stylist in the finest tradition—an emotional but fact-filled call for action.” —The Skeptic


“Conciencious, comprehensive and balanced. Everyone with an interest in conservation should read this account and consider its implications.” —Trends in Evolution and Ecology


“Well written and fascinating—Nicholls’ passion for his subject and sense of humour are always evident.” —Times Literary Supplement


"Manages to package human drama, reproductive biology and a conservation message with humour and exemplary clarity." —Folha de S.Paulo


“Highly readable. I encourage you to read this succinct book and pass it on to your colleagues, even children.” —EMBO Reports, Professor Jeffrey Powell, Yale


"In terms that are at once accessible and breezy, he makes an unequivovcal case for the sole known remaining individual of the Galapagos giant tortoise subspecies, Geochelone nigra abingdoni...Nicholls is a master reconteur...the chapters themselves are marvels of elucidation...Nicholls' effort is both timely and redoubtable, and demands critical attnetion now." —John Matthew, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences




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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780330450119
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Series: MacSci Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,504,736
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Nicholls writes for many of the world's leading science periodicals including Nature, NewScientist and Science. Following his PhD in evolutionary ecology with Tim Birkhead (The Beak of the Finch and The Red Canary) Henry edited The Encyclopedia of Life Sciences and Biomednet before becoming editor of the leading history of science journal, Endeavour. He lives in south London.

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Table of Contents

1 Discovery 1
2 Lonesome George's girlfriend 17
3 The origin of a species 33
4 Random drift 51
5 Man trap 72
6 Lock up your tortoise 91
7 The mysteries of Pinta 110
8 The diaspora 130
9 Wild at heart 145
10 Faking organisms 160
11 Clones and chimeras 173
Epilogue : what now? 189
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