Lonesome George

The Lament of Lonesome George

Lonesome George, the last known individual of the subspecies, Pinta Island tortoise died June 24, 2012 at the age of 101. However I first learnt about him via a report in the Straits Times in 1991 and I wrote this elegy, though he still had two more decades of solitary to survive.  April 24/27 1991

I was single at the time, and thanks to adoption, have avoided georg’es fate, in a manner of speaking.


The Abingdon Saddleback tortoise (say the newspaper reportoise)

is down to a number of one.

With singular distinction he faces extinction

and daily laments in the dim setting sun:

“When I was young, forty years ago, I was content to wait.

What was the hurry? How was I to know, that I’d never meet a mate?

I’ve plodded around the Galapagos, and searched every island track.

Wherever I go, I look long, and slow – but I can’t find one saddleback.

I’m giving up hope of an Abingdon girl – is there no saddle siren to woo?

It seems not, now I’m the only one in The Saddleback SDU*.

I must live alone. How I wish I could clone, as I moan the companion I lack.

This George has no Joan, I lament on my own –

Please, please bring the saddleback back!

We’ve enjoyed a long ride on the train of Creation

but we’ve come to the end of the line.

I see with regret the very next station’s

named Abingdon Saddleback.  It’s mine.

With ungainly gait I head for the door,

to depart from the face of the Earth.

It’s a date I must keep.

You may marvel no more

at my saddle‑shell’s grandeur and girth.

My huge hollow shell, on the wall of the past, will be hung for the future to mark,

A sad souvenir of the Saddleback, cast out from a shrinking ark.”

With this Lonesome George ceased his lament

though he still held his heavy head high,

as he listened to the silent stars, intent, hopeful for a fond female reply.

Then, slowly but surely, he withdrew – into his shell and out of our lives.

“Abingdon Saddleback! Abingdon Saddleback!”

The extinction express arrives.

A door opens, drops a sad passenger on the platform of oblivion

then closes with a slam.

Ever faster the express rolls on,

Day by day its numbers are growing, 

the species are going,

going like the Abingdon,


*SDU : Social Development Unit.

A distinctly and desperately Singaporean solution to the problem of a plunging number of marriages (and a concernning decline in the birth rate) in the 1990’s which sought to match eligible singles with dates of an equivalnt education level – O Levels with O levelholders, graduates with graduates.   

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