While scientists search for a mate for "Lonesome George" -- the last known survivor of a species of Galapagos tortoise -- some say the effort to fend off extinction may be in vain. Even if a mate is found, George has not been interested in reproducing in the past and may not know how, former keepers and others who have worked with him said.
"He has problems ... he probably never saw a female and male of his own species reproducing," said Swiss biologist Sveva Grigioni, who worked with George 13 years ago.
Grigioni, now back in Switzerland, said she could normally get tortoises to ejaculate within minutes, but spent months manually stimulating George and never extracted semen from him.
Age is not George's problem. He is estimated at between 60 and 90 years old, and could live to be 200 and still reproduce, scientists say.
The visual differences in tortoises from different islands were among the features of the Galapagos that helped 19th Century British naturalist Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution. Since then, the tortoises have been hunted by pirates for their meat and their habitat eaten away by goats introduced onto the islands. George, who weighs 198 pounds, was found on Pinta in 1971.
Search for Lonesome George mate is long shot
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