Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 22nd, 2009
Richard Gere who starred in The Mothman Prophecies may be adopting a new cause: the preservation of the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos National Park spokeswoman Vanessa Garcia says that during a visit to the Ecuadorean islands, he offered to speak out publicly for their conservation.
The Galapagos are home to unique animal and plant species and were a living laboratory for Charles Darwin. But conservationists say they are threatened by development and tourism.
American movie star Richard Gere, center, poses for pictures next to Solitario Jorge, a giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. The woman at left and the man at right are park guides. (AP Photo)
The 59-year-old star of various movies is touring the archipelago with his wife and son. Ecuadorean TV shows Gere meeting what is believed to be the last living member of the Geochelone nigra abingdoni tortoise species.
Lonesome George (Spanish: Solitario Jorge) is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdoni, one of eleven subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to the Galápagos Islands. He has been labelled the rarest creature in the world, and is a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally. It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel.
George was first seen on the island of Pinta on December 1, 1971 by American snail biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi. The island’s vegetation had been decimated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous G. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, Geochelone nigra becki from Wolf Island, in the hope that his genotype would be retained in the resulting progeny. Any offspring successfully hatched from George and his consorts would be intergrades, not purebreds of the Pinta subspecies.
George is estimated to be 60–90 years of age, and is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state.
In May 2007, analysis of genomic microsatellites (DNA sequences) suggested that other individuals of Geochelone nigra abingdoni may still exist. Researchers have identified one male tortoise from the neighboring Galápagos island of Isabela which has half his genes in common with George’s subspecies. This animal must be a first generation intergrade between the subspecies of the islands Isabela and Pinta. It is possible that a pure Pinta tortoise lives among the 2,000 tortoises on Isabela.
Attempts at mating Lonesome George were unsuccessful for several decades, possibly due to the lack of a female of his own subspecies, and prompted researchers at the Darwin Station to offer a $10,000 reward for a suitable mate. On July 21 2008, it was reported that George had unexpectedly mated with one of his female companions. A total of thirteen eggs were collected and placed in incubators. However, on November 11, 2008, The Charles Darwin Research Center reported that 80% of the eggs showed weight loss characteristic of being infertile. To the disappointment of the Darwin Center, by December 2008 the remaining eggs had failed to hatch and x-rays had showed them to be infertile.
Richard Gere is an outspoken advocate for human rights in the Free Tibet movement and other causes.
Remember another cause, be a star yourself, make some time today to have a small impact close to your heart that would be huge in supporting cryptozoology…click below now…