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Lonesome George Is Dead, Long Live The Giant Galapagos Tortoise!

LE TEMPS (Switzerland)


PUERTO BAQUERIZO MORENO – The famous giant tortoise of the Galapagos is saved! At least for now...

It was thought that the ancient Galapagos tortoise endemic to these South American islands had gone extinct with last year's death of Lonesome George, the last of the living among this type of tortoise, writes Le Temps. But another species of Galapagos tortoises, living on one of the seven islands of the archipelago, is apparently thriving.

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The Galapagos Islands, Wikipedia

Lonesome George, who died June 2012 was thought to be the last remaining member of the Galapagos tortoise species, but his cousins from the neighboring isle of Espanola seems to be doing quite well, even though their number had dropped down to 14 in the 1960s, two males and 12 females.

Galapagos tortoises can measure up to 51 inches and weigh 500 pounds. In past centuries, they were a delicacy favored by pirates and whalers.

In 1977, a male tortoise in its prime – about 100 years old; these reptiles live up to be 175 – was reintroduced into the Espanola island. He had been brought there from the San Diego Zoo, where he was living out his retirement.

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Geochelone elephantosus, the Galapagos giant tortoise, Wikipedia

The Espanola tortoises were taken from the island and transported to the main Galapagos Island, Santa Cruz, wher they were being bred in captivity in the Charles Darwin Research Center. The program was hugely successful and all together, 1700 tortoises were brought back to Espanola, which in turn started breeding in the wild.

“It’s a beautiful victory to have been able to recreate a population from such a small community,” claims Lukas Keller, biologist and Galapagos exhibition curator at Zurich’s Zoological museum. But, well they are all pretty much inbred, which makes them quite vulnerable, he says.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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