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Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of A Conservation Icon: The Life and Loves of the World's Most Famous Tortoise Paperback – 2 Oct 2007
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"Like the best human-focused biographers, Nicholls uses his unusual subject as a springboard into more universal territory. He aptly portrays Lonesome George as a sort of reptilian Forrest Gump, an unwitting bystander continually thrust to the forefront as society's defining crises play themselves out around him."--"Wired""" "This marvellous look at the conservation of nature, as embodied in one enormous reptile, is highly recommended."--Nancy Bent, "Booklist""" "Is he gay, impotent or just bored? Read this fascinating book for the full story. It skilfully blends historical derring-do with cutting-edge conservation biology."--"NewScientist""Told with real affection and humour...a fitting tribute to one of the voiceless victims of human progress."--"Guardian """ "A warmly enjoyable book...a pleasure to read."--www.popularscience.co.uk "Nicholls' lively tale takes the reader on a journey through the Galapagos - and how much there is to lose."--BBC Focus Magazine "This is a wonderful tale of an almost mythical beast. Rich in historical detail George's story is one of pathos, despair and hope with some quirky reproductive biology thrown in for good measure. Nicholls has done us all a service, reminding us of the fragility of life in general and of one very special chelonian in particular." -- Tim Birkhead, author of "Promiscuity "and "The Red Canary"""
"""Not simply the story of a tortoise but the tale of that icon of evolution, the Galapagos archipelago, and of the heroics and (sometimes) seeming futility of the conservation movement. The science is compelling, the tone is light - highly recommended."--Olivia Judson, "Seed Magazine"""
"It is a cracking tale - and crackingly well told. It is also salutary. Giant tortoises are indeed extraordinary - but not as strange as human beings."--Colin Tudge, author of "The Secret Life of Trees"""
"If Darwin were alive today he would be fascinated by Henry Nicholls' splendid account of this solitary survivor from Pinta
One tortoise's tale of conservation, commerce, cloning, combat and collecting on the high seasSee all Product description
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Told with a disarming humour, and packed with scientific titbits, Lonesome George's tale has all the adventure of pioneering conservation, some amazing confessions of animal cruelty from Darwin, the difficulties and anxiety of taxonomy, and at its heart, a very lonely giant tortoise.
Henry Nicholls' account of the George and the plight of giant tortoises in the Galapagos is rich in detail but at the same time light-hearted and compelling. The book not only chronicles George's capture, the efforts to find him a mate and the difficulty of obtaining sperm samples from a reluctant tortoise but also includes a fascinating introduction to the many issues that surround the science of conservation. It also provides insight into how scientists try to solve puzzles such as how tortoises got to the Galapagos islands in the first place and how to assess the potential risks of releasing cross-breed offspring into the wild.
The way that the author can put forward many different theories without disrupting the flow is impressive. As a reader you will gladly follow a diversion to a discussion about a different species or how specimens are catalogued in the Natural History Museum and as such this book is much more than just a story about a tortoise. It manages to weave many major concepts of biology into the tale without feeling like a textbook: from Darwin, to DNA analysis, to cloning.
George is not just a tortoise but also a conservation icon and this message is loud and clear throughout the book. He is an ambassador to remind us to think about what we are doing to the world, and does a very good job.
It's a story which will interest anyone interested in conservation, the animal kingdom, our species' increasingly complex relationship with animals (and very importantly the 'idea' of animals). Oh, and of course tortoises.
If you've ever enjoyed the essays of Stephen J Gould, the technique of taking a small detail and using it to expound a far bigger story with anecdotes and diversions along the way, this is for you.
Nicholls takes us on a steady journey, never losing sight of his protagonist, but not shying from illuminating some of the more obscure (even obscene) corners of naturalism and conservation. all one can say is that there are some VERY passionate people out there protecting Earth's species!
Never overly worthy, but thought-provoking, 'Lonesome George' leaves a slightly wistful, sad feeling of impending loss. Nicholls never resorts to easy solutions or black and white arguments about the future of this particular area of conservation.
The style is supremely readable, and the all important science never over complicated, but equally never patronising.
I had stopped reading books like this just when 'popular science' became ubiquitous. Works like this restore my faith in the genre, and I shall be looking for this author again.
One suggestion: Make a TV series!
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