“On 1 December 1971, (Hungarian) snail biologist, József Vágvölgyi & his wife Maria were on Pinta when they came face to face with a giant tortoise. ‘The tortoise was walking slowly when he first encountered him but withdrew into his shell with a loud hiss as we moved closer to take his picture’, Vagvolgyi recalled. ‘He soon relaxed and resumed his walk.’ “ - from Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of the World’s Most Famous Tortoise by Henry Nicholls
24 June 2012 was a sad day for the environmentalist, scientists, turtle fans around the globe when the infamous Lonesome George was found dead. Lonesome George was estimated to be 100 years old, though he could be younger or maybe older. Not a soul can precisely sure. Despite many conservation efforts to find him the right mate, this last surviving Pinta Giant Tortoise did not leave any offspring to sustain his subspecies. Our world witnessed yet another extinction right before our eyes.
George must have been through so much the last 100 years. If George could speak, I’m sure he has many stories to tell. From how Pinta Island was when he first hatch, to the day he was spotted walking alone by József Vágvölgyi.
What George must have seen the last 100 years?
George might have seen his beautiful Pinta Island untouched with plenty of food to eat and probably some tortoise a lot bigger than him. He must have watched whalers and seamen slaughtering his seniors and start wondering why. Back then, maybe he was much smaller and faster, so they missed him. Or maybe seeing the massacre, he went into hiding. But he sure is one lucky tortoise to survive those merciless act.
George must have felt puzzled to see some furry, 2-horned creature making unusual sounds who are eating his food. Maybe he never knew they were called Feral Goats and had his own name for them… like Lucifer? And George must have noticed that day after day, there’s more and more of them. And must have realized that it gets harder to find food.
On the 1 December 1971, while walking around probably in search of a friend and some food, George must have been very frightened to see two humans in his homeland. He must have thought they were so similar to the beings who were slaughtering his kind. He mustn’t have expected that this incident leads to the many efforts to keep him & his kind alive.
George must have felt really confused and was full of questions when he was taken to the Charles Darwin Research Center. He probably to finally meet other similar looking creatures (if he knew how he looked like). George must have seen so many flashlights & hearing ooh’s and aah’s while he was there. He must have met many celebrities but didn’t know who they were.
But above all that, George must have been searching all his life for that perfect female partner. Maybe he did and she died. He must have been wondering where are the rest of his kind. In the midst of the crowd, he must be wondering if he really is the only one in the world. George must have felt lonely.
Are the Pinta Giant tortoise gone forever?
Ever since Lonesome George was found, people had been putting huge effort to find a female Pinta Giant Tortoise. The government of Ecuador had also announced that $10,000 will be rewarded to the person who can get female for George. Till the day he died, a pure-bred female was never found. However, researchers believe that there may still be Pinta Giant Tortoise out there, or at least the hybrids of them, because they might have interbred in the Isabella Island. But with the current environmental destruction, pollution and climate change, could these remaining tortoises survive for long?
Lonesome George has always been the world’s conservation icon, reminding us be alert & care for our mother nature. His death should not mean the end of this message. In fact, his story will forever be an echoing reminder to mankind. We might only be able to hope for a miracle for this subspecies, but one thing for sure, we still have time to save other endangered species around us.
Farewell, George. You will always have a special place in our hearts.
Upon hearing Penang Butterfly Farm, I am sure you would think that we are only about butterflies and caterpillars. Actually, apart from dealing with butterflies, we are also doing the breeding and husbandry of other animals in our farm, such as beetles, lizards, frogs and even snails. During the special month of parents’ day, interestingly there are some new born “babies” in our farm as well. So, let’s meet the babies:
Oriental Whip snake
Hi, we are Ahaetulla prasina. We were born on 15th May 2012. Usually, people will call us Oriental Whip snake. We like to stay on tree branches and sleep but we can be very active during daytime. Our body may be a dull colour now but when we grow up, our colour will change to completely green. We like this green colour because we can use it to hide among the leaves on the trees and it is such an elegant colour. Besides that, we like to eat small lizard. When we grow bigger, we will be able to eat other food like frogs and crickets. Our mama is able to produce 4 to 10 of us at a time. That is why we love our mama so much. Because there are many of us, we have to stay separately from our mama. People usually think that we are dangerous but actually we are just slightly venomous and not very harmful to people.
Great Angle Head lizard
I am Gonocephalus grandis. I hatched from my egg on the 2nd week of May. I am the youngest and I have a brother who hatched a day earlier than me. People call me the Great Angle Head because of my cranial shape when I grow. It is difficult to differentiate me and my cousins, the Bell Angle Head lizard when we are babies. I like sunny day because I can climb up to a tree and enjoy sun basking. In addition, I am an intelligent boy because I have colour-changing ability to camouflage. Sometime, people say that my family is the most aggressive species of the genus. Because of this, I have to stay separately with my parents. But I am not alone because my brother is staying with me. Sometime, I don’t like being photographed, so, I will run around when I see anyone coming.
I may be called cat gecko, but I am not a cat. I prefer you call me Aeluroscalabotes felines, it sounds more high class. Do you know that I am the only species within the Aeluroscalabotes genus? I was born on 27th May. I am the youngest gecko in Penang Butterfly Farm. Do you know why they call me cat gecko? It is because when I sleep, I will curl up my tail like a cat. I like to sleep in cool shaded place that is why temperature is very important to me. I sleep in the daytime and I’m active at the night, so you may not see me much during daytime. I have some vertebral striping on my rich coffee-colored brown and bold rust coloration skin. They feed me with the small crickets. Some people ask me why is mama much bigger than papa, I am not sure why, myself but I love them both very much.
Giant Asian Pond turtle
We share the same surname with the Great Angle Lizard – grandis but obviously we are a different genus which is Heosemys grandis. There are 8 of us who hatched out of our eggs on 8th May in the incubation box. We like to eat plant leaves and small aquatic invertebrates. Usually, we use our front leg to tear up the food after we bite them. Do you know how to differentiate if we are a boy or a girl? The boys have slightly concave plastron (lower shell) and longer, thicker tails while the girls have flat plastrons and shorter tails. Due to the high demand of our shell and meat, we are being poached and over-exploited. Therefore, now we are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and also listed on Appendix II of CITES. Hopefully, if you stop supporting these products, our species will continue to exist.
Can you see me? I am very tiny and I am only around 5mm. I just hatched on the 3rd week of May. I have a lot of siblings and all of us look alike. I am Hemiplecta tweediei. You can call me Platymma tweediei too or Fire Snail if the other two names are too difficult. I am a terrestrial snail and I am one of the mountain species. Generally, I live in high humidity area because I do not like dry area. When you keep me as a pet, you have to make sure that my house is very humid. Usually when I am hungry, I will creep slowly to chew my food like leaf, fungus but mostly I feed on the sweet potatoes. Do you know why people call us Fire Snail? Not because we are hot but because when we grow up, we have bright brick-red colour, just like the colour of fire. Mommy and Daddy’s coal black shell can be as big as 3 inches in diameter! As for me, I am still small, transparent and shy. When I am frightened or when I need to sleep, I will hide in my shell.
Lastly, you have met our cute babies of the month. We hope that they will encourage you to appreciate the beauty of nature and also your parents! Any plans for your parents during this special Parents’ Day? Whether they are near or far do not forget to appreciate them. Lastly, we wish all parents a big “Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Father’s Day.” Hope to see you soon in Penang Butterfly Farm.
An interesting creature has joined the farm: Doria’s Angle-Headed Lizard. Try to watch their different skin colours when you are at the farm!
An Interesting Story to Share……
Two month ago, Kavitha the owner and savior of a Green Iguana has to make a big decision on whether to keep the Iguana which she loves very much, or to place it in an environment meant for these animal. Her final decision was to give the iguana up knowing that it will have a better home and to have more friends……..This touching story was written by the owner herself after she had donated her loving pet iguana to us, The Penang Butterfly Farm…….
How Abhi Was Saved and How They Become Bestfriend
“Ok let me tell you about how abhimanyu came into my life. I took him from a friend when he was barely 4 months old, in a terrible condition; he could barely move or walk, malnutritioned and not exposed to sun light.
I took him home, constantly kept him close to my body, and every feeding time, I would juice mixed fruits like carrot, watermelon, papaya n banana, mango, mixing it with vits, and feed him thru a small syringe. Feeding took at least 30 minutes because he was too weak to even open his mouth; he sleeps on my chest every night, so that his body is constantly warm.
And slowly my little baby became better. I named him ‘Abhimanyu’ (a warrior from old Hindu scriptures for having survived his ordeal). We go everywhere together. Drives to Penang (from KL) with my little manyu baby sleeping on my lap while I drive; he loves to look out the window of the car for hours as well.
We even went to have lunch at a hotel with some clients with ‘Abhimanyu’ sitting quietly throughout the 2 hour lunch inside my blouse. That is how good a boy he is. My sister (rekha) and I used to keep him as close as possible so that he is constantly warm. Sometimes it’s so funny seeing this little green head peep out of the collar of your shirt, just below you neck.
Once when my sister was washing plates, he had his 2 front’s legs holding the collar and peeping out, looking at her washing dishes from inside her collared t-shirt. He is very cute and manja.
At home he had his own teddy bear and he is tucked in every night. When he wakes up, he walks to the balcony, basks in the sun and come in only when he has had enough.
Once in my old apartment he went to the balcony, climbed onto a coconut tree beside the balcony thru the dried palm leave… and climbed down the tree, four floors down to open garden below during a heavy storm. Only found him the next morning, looking down the balcony, saw this little green thing moving on a lemon shrub. He loves the green, so I am very sure he will be happy.
Thank you once again.. and you can talk to him, he will listen, he understands alot, maybe its our bonding. But for an iguana he is way too smart. My cousins would say he’d win academy award for acting…for he is so well behaved when i am around but is so naughty when he is with them.”
If you are interested in meeting Abhi, come visit the Penang Butterfly Farm!!!
Posted in Reptiles |
The Penang Butterfly Farm has just adopted an unusual but interesting looking gecko. It is known as the Tokay Gecko ( トッケイヤモリ ), the second largest species of all geckos. Originally from Southeast Asia, this creature is from a family species called Gekkonidae and the length of this magnificent creature could reach up to 35cm long. It can be found in tropical rainforest, mainly on trees and cliffs. They have very fine hairs on their toes and that allow them to stick on walls and ceilings without falling.
This gecko has an amazing body color with striking red dots and bluish background. The eyes are prominent which have vertical slits on them. Similar to most geckos, the Tokay gecko has two hidden ears. Besides its magnificent body color, the Tokay gecko is an aggressive carnivores’ reptile which has an Insectivorous diet. It is also capable of biting and has an unpredictable temperament, so do be careful!
Breeding season for this gecko species will normally last for about 4 to 5 months and during the mating process, the male gecko will hold onto the female using their mouth. In order to attract a female gecko, the male gecko makes a call and it can be heard over a wide area. This loud sound is repeated for a couple of times hoping that a female gecko will respond. The male will approach the female from the back, where the male gecko later will place its teeth on the female’s neck section to hold her in place as they move from side to side during the mating process. After mating, the female will look for a safe place to lay its eggs, and when the right location is found, she will then lay the eggs and secure them to a solid base where they will be guarded by both male and female gecko until they hatch. One of the interesting feature about this gecko is the females can lay eggs about every month.
Tokay Gecko In The News
Gecko’s Sticky Feet Inspires MIT Researchers