Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wiser or more wise?

Being called wise is pretty much always associated with age… “Listen to your elders, they're wise like an old owl.” Yessss, we’ve all heard this saying! However, the irony of it is that owls don’t live very long. With a mean life period of 20 years, these guys only live a quarter of a human’s life span. Sooo… after an hour of blankly staring off, a 30 minute nap and some extraneous brain exercises, I came to the conclusion that there is another critter that deserves the prestigious label of being “Wise”.

Grab your walkers because this critter is going to make your grandma look like a spring chicken… the Galapagos Tortoise.

These charismatic critters are local residents of the Galapagos. They are the largest land tortoise with some exceeding 5 feet in length and over  550 lbs. Charles Darwin was quoted saying "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground". STOP and REWIND… DARWIN?!?!?!  As in, evolution DARWIN???  The answer is yes! This critter can live well over 160 years in captivity.  Currently the oldest living tortoise is Jonathan who’s thought to be 178, this would have made him a year old when Darwin was circumnavigating the globe in search of evolutionary evidence.  Leading an uncomplicated and boring life, most of their day is wasted away grazing (they eat between 70-80 lbs per day), sun tanning and sleeping (16 hours a day). With a slow metabolism and large internal storage devices these critters can survive a year without food and water.  Stored on board ships because of this unique survival ability (no maintenance and fresh meat), the tortoise was a favored food source for sailors, pirates and whalers during the 15-17 century. During these years it was estimated 200,000 tortoises were killed. Considered Vulnerable according to the IUCN, successful breeding programs have brought their numbers up to around 15,000 individuals. Remember, common courtesy rule number 1:  Respect your ELDERS!!!!

Meet Lonesome George the last of his sub-species:
If you would like to learn more about Galapagos Conservation click here:

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