There was a news headline back in 2009 that excitedly reported a female tortoise, paired with the famous Lonesome George, laid a clutch of eggs. Unfortunately, the eggs were infertile, and it appears that the possibility of offspring is grim for this last remaining of the Pinta Island subspecies of Tortoise. George continues to play a critical role as an icon for conservation in the Galapagos Islands. His age is not known, but the average lifespan is expected to be 100-150 yrs, an amazing span of life. They can weigh up to 600 lbs, the males being typically larger. Since the 17th century, their populations were effected by both hunting and loss of habitat, the latter largely from the introduction of feral grazing animals like goats. Recent plans to exterminate the goats from some of the islands have proved successful.
I photographed this wild tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz. His face is full of passion fruit seeds, remnants from his recent feeding on the abundant fruit. It was pretty dark under the forest canopy, and this photo reveals the amazing versatility of digital files, since at 800 ISO, it is nearly grain free and rich in color. The exposures were at the minimum to stop motion and have a tiny bit of depth of field. I sat low and froze until the tortoise relaxed and eventually walked past, and grabbed a few frames and a short video.