A scientific expedition found in the Wolf volcano, on Isabela Island, the westernmost of the Ecuadorian archipelago of Galapagos, a giant tortoise that would have the lineage of Solitaire Jorge, an emblematic giant and unique quelonio that died in June 2012 .
The expedition, which began 10 days ago, returned to its headquarters on Santa Cruz Island, in the center of the archipelago, with 29 giant hybrid turtles with lineage of the species “Chelonoidis niger”, considered extinct Floreana, and one more turtle, established as the highest priority for having a high genetic load of the species “Chelonoidis abingdonii”, to which Jorge or “George” belonged.
The latter is a young female, who is presumed to be a direct descendant of a pure individual, who may still live somewhere in the Wolf volcano, in northern Isabela, the Galapagos National Park said in a statement (PNG), responsible for monitoring and protecting the fragile ecosystem of the archipelago.
The expedition, which is part of the “Initiative for the Restoration of the Giant Turtles”, sponsored by Galapagos Conservancy and PNG, was made up of 45 people, including park rangers and scientists, who were divided into twelve search groups and traveled around 200 square kilometers.
The team also collected about fifty samples of blood from turtles located for the first time, to which they also placed an identification microchip.
The purpose of this operation is to carry out a genetic analysis to determine the species, especially if it is considered that a large population of hybrid individuals and species that were considered extinct inhabits the Wolf volcano because pirates and whalers released in the past That site turtles collected on other islands.
The thirty located turtles were transferred to the “Fausto Llerena” Breeding Center, on Santa Cruz Island, after the respective quarantine process, in the case of Floreana, joining the captive breeding program.
In the case of the tortoise with Pinta lineage and that is believed to be related to Jorge, the authorities and scientists will evaluate the management actions that will be taken in the future, said the PNG.
Solitaire Jorge became an emblem of the archipelago and in life he was subjected to important care and pampering, although all attempts to reproduce it failed.
After being found dead by natural causes in his pen on June 24, 2012, Jorge’s body was frozen at 50 degrees below zero with very special care so that his tissues did not deteriorate.
In 2013 he underwent a taxidermy process in the United States and in 2017 his embalmed body returned to Ecuador to be exhibited in an especially suitable space.
The Solitaire Jorge was the last specimen of the Pinta Island species “Chelonoidis abingdoni” and since its discovery in 1971, it was taken care of at the Santa Cruz Breeding and Reproduction Center.
This Ecuadorian archipelago consists of thirteen large islands, six smaller islands and 42 islets, and is located about a thousand kilometers west of the continental coasts of Ecuador.
Because of its rich biodiversity, it is considered a natural laboratory that allowed the English scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory on the evolution and natural selection of species.
The Galapagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site in 1978 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).