Last Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, remembered on latest Animal Skin coin
The fourth in the Helvetic Mints popular Animal Skin series has trundled out and it’s returned to its reptilian roots with the Pinta Island Tortoise. Depicting what is believed to be the last of his kind, thanks to us as usual, Lonesome George fills the reverse of this oval coin in a nice-looking close-up. Launching in 2012 with the Blue Iguana, the series followed on in 2013 with the Crocodile before heading off into the world of insects in 2014 with an interesting look at the eye of a housefly. All are in the same oval format which seems to suit the subject particularly well. The colour on these coins has always been well realised, using a technique called 5C which takes the standard CMYK printing and then adds a lacquer. There’s a great depth to these, something the Helvetic Mint usually does with an ultra-high relief strike. Mintage remains the same as the housefly coin at just 700 pieces, down from the debut coins 1,000.
Despite the mints description below, it’s recently been discovered that Lonesome George may not have been the last of his sub-species after all. In 2012, a study by Yale University found 17 hybrid descendants of his sub-species (Chelonoidis abingdoni), and being juvenile (under 20 years old), it’s highly possible that many of the parents are still alive. Hopefully, somewhere around Volcano Wolf on the northern tip of the Galápagos island of Isabela, there lives some of Lonesome George’s relatives and with the extremely strict protections now in place, remain safe for the future.
The coin is available to purchase now for around €120-140 from all the usual dealers. The Helvetic Mint doesn’t sell directly to the public.
LONESOME GEORGE was the last remaining specimen of the Pinta Island species, Chelonoidis abingdoni, since its discovery in the wild in 1971. He remained in the care of the park rangers at the Center for Reproduction and Breeding of the Galapagos National Park in Santa Cruz Island. During that time, environmental authorities carried out multiple actions to try to get George to reproduce, but none of them were ever successful. On Sunday June 24, 2012 his body was found dead in his yard, by the same ranger who took care of him throughout most of his years in captivity, Fausto Llerena.
Lonesome George was considered the rarest animals on the planet and he represented a long line of tortoises that inhabited one of the most northerly remote islands of the Galapagos. Morphologically different than the other races or subspecies of giant tortoise,
He became a popular symbol of the Galápagos Islands—his image emblazoned on stamps, logos, and souvenir T-shirts—as well as a potent symbol of ever-increasing extinctions.
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