The unusual, and slightly comical, wildlife of North Seymour Island

“The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself.” Charles Darwin

North Seymour Island walk

My favourite excursion in the Galapagos Islands was to North Seymour Island, where we spent two hours meandering along a trail spotting wildlife. We had close-up encounters with magnificent frigatebirds, great frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, swallow-tailed gulls, brown pelicans, sea-lions, seals, marine iguanas, land iguanas, lava lizards and painted locusts.

      Blue-footed booby Juvenile frigatebird       Sea-lionBrown pelican        Marine iguanaJuvenile frigatebird         swallow-tailed gull  Lava lizard         Land iguana Blue-footed booby with chicks   Painted locust   Frigatebird with chick

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The dragons of Galapagos

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin
Standing close to a Galapagos dragon, aka marine iguana, on Isabela Island.

Last year I fulfilled one of my travel dreams – visiting the Galapagos Islands – and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve always loved watching wildlife and I knew I was in for a treat from the minute I arrived. As we waited on the dock to be transferred to our cruise boat, there were raucous sea lions on the boat-ramp and magnificent frigatebirds overhead. During the next 10 days I saw so much wildlife, including giant tortoises, sea turtles, marine iguanas, land iguanas, blue-footed bobbies, seals, sea lions, penguins, frigatebirds, lava lizards, sally lightfoot crabs and Darwin’s finches. I took so many photographs and had so many wonderful experiences that I’ve decided to do a series of blogs – and where better to start than with the famous Galapagos dragons.

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Lonesome George

“Whatever happens to this single animal, let him always remind us that the fate of all living things on Earth is in human hands.”

Last year, I visited the Galapagos Islands and one of the highlights was a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz to see Lonesome George, pictured here. But this morning I heard the news via The Age that Lonesome George had died – World loses species with death of tortoise Lonesome George. I had to stop what I was doing and take a moment to look at my photos and remember my visit.

I’m not sure why, but for me, seeing Lonesome George was more exciting than seeing Giant Tortoises in the wild on Isabela Island. Perhaps it’s because Lonesome George has become such an icon for the conservation movement in the Galapagos Islands that it was just a really special moment to catch a glimpse of him.

Lonesome George was discovered on the remote (and rarely visited) island of Pinta in 1971. At the time, it was thought all the tortoises had been exterminated by whalers and seal hunters, so it was a startling discovery. In March 1972, he was taken to the Charles Darwin Research Station and, initially, scientists hoped they would also be able to find some females specimens on Pinta Island for him to breed with. But this wasn’t to be, and, as a last ditch effort, they put two female tortoises from Wolf Volcano in his pen. Unfortunately, Lonesome George just wasn’t interested in them and now that he is gone, the species is extinct.

While I was in the Galapagos Island’s, I purchased the book Lonesome George: The life and loves of a conservation icon by Henry Nichols, which is a wonderful read. The final paragraph reads:

One day, of course, George will give up the tortoise ghost. Even then, he will be of immense value to the Galapagos… Lonesome George must remain in the archipelago, at the research station on Santa Cruz. By then, this is where he will have spent most of his life; this is the place that Lonesome George would call home. Even in death, it is here that he will have his greatest audience.

According to The Age report, the Galapagos National Park Service have said they will be convening an international workshop in July on management strategies for restoring tortoise populations over the next decade, in honour of Lonesome George.