Pinta giant tortoise (Geochelone abingdoni) - Lonesome George (Sole Survivor)
Species: Geochelone abingdoni
Common name: Pinta giant tortoise, “Lonesome George”
Size: 102cm across shell, 88kg in weight
Habitat: Charles Darwin Research Station corral
Range: None present on Pinta, “Lonesome George” resides at Charles Darwin Research Station
Status: Pinta species is nearing Extinction
Threatened by: introduced species, habitat destruction, historical predation by humans
The rarest animal in the world today is a giant tortoise which lives in the Galapagos Islands.
There is only one Pinta Island tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni). It is a male known by his keepers as Lonesome George. And when he dies the Pinta tortoises will be extinct.
Once there were millions of giant tortoises. In the age of the dinosaurs they covered most of the Americas, Europe and Asia. Like other dinosaurs they began to die out when mammals evolved and they were neither clever enough nor fast enough to compete for food.
But three million years ago, the Galapagos Islands burst out of the Pacific Ocean. For centuries these volcanic wastelands were bare. Then seeds carried by birds took root, the birds themselves stayed, and animals arriving on rafts of vegetation carried by ocean currents no longer perished.
Among there animals were the giant tortoises. They landed on 10 of the islands and have become adapted to the conditions of each. On arid, sparsely vegetated islands such as Pinta and Espanola only those with flared up shells and longer necks could reach the high-growing plants. In wetter regions such as Santa Cruz Island and southern Isabela they retained their domed shells and grew much bigger.
Charles Darwin, visiting the islands in 1835, saw that the tortoises on each island were different although they had obviously descended from a common stock which was now extinct on the mainland. This observation formed part of his world-changing Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
Before Darwin’s arrival the giant tortoises were in trouble again. Whalers, merchantmen and naval vessels took thousands on board as an insurance against scurvy, because the tortoises could live for up to 18 months without food or water. Settlers introduced farm animals. Pigs gone wild scoffed tortoise eggs, dogs killed juveniles, escaped goats and donkeys devoured the vegetation.
The Charles Darwin Research Station was opened on Santa Cruz Island in 1962 with the objective of protecting the remaining animals. By that time, five tortoises races had been declared extinct, among them the Pinta Island form.
Of those that were not extinct, several populations were precariously small. There were only 14 of the Espanola form, Geochelone elephantopus hoodensis. From lichen growths on the backs of the females it was clear that they had not mated for several seasons, probably because they had had to scatter so far in search of food.
Since 1965 the two males and twelve females from this island have been taken to the research station as breeding stock. It was further established that there was another male in San Diego Zoo, and he was transferred to the Galapagos colony. Meanwhile the National Parks Service began killing goats. Within 10 years almost all the goats were gone and vegetation on Espanola had been re-established.
The remaining Espanola tortoises are striking animals. With the exaggerated curves of their carapaces, their telescopic necks and small heads, they cannot be confused with tortoises from any other island. When startled they move with surprising speed, necks outstretched, long legs moving purposefully, and belying the legendary slothfulness of their kind.
The breeding venture has been very successful. Confined to a limited area and under the watchful eyes of scientists, these few mate and lay eggs as they once did on Espanola. For the first few years there were problems finding suitable nesting soil, but the staff of the research station persisted by creating artificial sites in the corral.
All eggs laid are transferred to incubating boxes so they will not be damaged by another female choosing the same site. Eggs must be handled carefully and kept in the same position as they were laid because the tiny embryo is soon attached to the eggshell, where it begins to grow.
The baby tortoises are kept at the research station until they are five years old, when they are taken to Espanola Island and released. At this age they are big enough to fend for themselves, and more are released every year while the 15 adults remain at the research station.
On Pinzon Island, mating and nesting of Geochelone elephantopus ephippium still takes place, but introduced black rats have overrun the island and they eat eggs and young. Until the research station stepped in, the population was steadily ageing. Now eggs are transferred to the research station and the young are released on Pinzon when they are big enough to resist attack. Rat traps and poisons are unthinkable in Galapagos so this work will be carried on indefinitely.
In December 1971 a scientist studying snails saw a solitary tortoise on Pinta Island. This was reported to the Galapagos authorities and a search was mounted. In 1972 National Park wardens killing goats on the island found the lone male and took him back to the research station.
The story of Lonesome George has travelled all around the world. Zoos have been offered a reward of $10,000 for a Pinta female. The reward has never been claimed.
Famous Galápagos Tortoise, Lonesome George, May Not Be Alone!!
ScienceDaily (May 1, 2007) — “Lonesome George,” a giant Galapagos tortoise and conservation icon long thought to be the sole survivor of his species, may not be alone for much longer, according to a multinational team of researchers headed by investigators at Yale University.
New research led by biologists Adalgisa Caccone and Jeffrey Powell in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, with the strong support and cooperation of the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, has identified a tortoise that is clearly a first generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta. That means, this new tortoise has half his genes in common with Lonesome George.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records Lonesome George, a native of Pinta, an isolated northern island of the Galápagos, is the “rarest living creature.” By the late 1960s, it was noted that the tortoise population on this island that is visited only occasionally by scientists and fishermen, had dwindled close to extinction, and in 1972, only this single male of the species Geochelone abingdoni was found.
Lonesome George was immediately brought into captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz where he is housed with two female tortoises from a species found on the neighboring island of Isabela.
“Even after 35 years, Lonesome George seems uninterested in passing on his unique genes and has failed to produce offspring,” said lead author Michael Russello of the University of British Columbia Okanagan who began working with the tortoises as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. “The continuing saga surrounding the search for a mate has positioned Lonesome George as a potent conservation icon, not just for Galápagos, but worldwide.” Although Lonesome George has yet to find a tortoise partner, upwards of 50,000 people visit him each year.
The study, published in Current Biology, gives a peek into the evolutionary history of a species of Galápagos tortoise (G. becki) — previously known to be genetically mixed –on the neighboring island of Isabela. The results were possible only with advances in technology from these researchers that make DNA from ancient or museum specimens useful for genetic analysis.
Population analyses of a large database including individuals from all 11 existing species of Galápagos tortoises was compared to the genetic variation within two of the G. becki populations. DNA data for the nearly extinct G. abingdoni species from Pinta was available for the first time from six museum specimens — and from Lonesome George.
There are well over 2,000 tortoises of G. becki living on the neighboring volcanic Isabela Island, which has only two sites accessible from the sea. The research team collected samples from a total of 89 tortoises — 29 at one location, 62 on the other side of the island. Because the subset of the population they sampled was so small, the researchers hope that thorough sampling will locate a genetically pure Pinta tortoise.
The authors speculate that, in the event additional individuals of pure Pinta ancestry are discovered, a captive breeding and repatriation program could be set up for species recovery. “It will take a team of about 20 people about three to four weeks to do a first, exhaustive sampling and transmitter-tagging of the tortoises on the volcano,” said Caccone. “Then once individuals of interest are found — either hybrids with Pinta or pure Pinta animals — an equivalent field expedition will have to be mounted to find the animals and bring them in captivity. But, it is a harsh environment with no local resources and funding such an operation will be costly.”
According to Powell, “These findings offer the potential for transforming the legacy of Lonesome George from an enduring symbol of rarity to a conservation success story.”
Other authors on the paper are Nathan Havill from Yale, Luciano B. Beheregaray from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, James P. Gibbs from the State University of New York at Syracuse and Thomas Fritts from the University of New Mexico. The research was supported by the Bay Foundation, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies and the National Geographic Society.
The Story of Lonesome George
The small island of Pinta is located in the North of the Galapagos archipelago. One of the 11 remaining races of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni) comes from Pinta, but their history is a tragic one. Whalers and sealers heavily depleted their numbers in the 19th century, some ships taking many tortoises at a time. The tortoises were a good food source as they could live up to a year in the holds of the ships without food and water. Females were generally taken first as they are much smaller than the males and could be found in the more accessible lowland areas during the egg laying season. Before Lonesome George was found, the last reported sighting of tortoises on Pinta was in 1906, when the island was visited by the Californian Academy of Sciences. They collected three males, which were the last tortoises seen on Pinta for the next 60 years.
Another issue for the Giant Tortoises of Pinta Island was the presence of goats, which were released by fishermen in the 1950's as an alternative food source. These introduced mammals destroyed much of the vegetation and directly competed with any remaining tortoises for food. The population of goats grew rapidly, devastating the vegetation and causing erosion.
In 1971, National Park wardens hunting goats on Pinta came across a single male tortoise. He became known as "Lonesome George". His name derived most certainly from being the only surviving example of his species and "George," after the U.S. actor George Goebel, who called himself "Lonesome George" in a television program. It was decided to bring the animal back to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where there was already a captive breeding program for the giant tortoises. Many years later, "Lonesome George" was placed in a corral with female tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus becki) from Wolf Volcano, located on Isabela Island.
The hope was that by placing these animals together, the Pinta race through "Lonesome George" would pass along at least some of his genes into future generations. The Wolf race were the closest morphologically to the Pinta race. The aim was to maintain George's sexual activity for the possibility that a Pinta female was found, or at least back crossing to create as close an offspring as possible to the Pinta characteristics. Unfortunately, he has yet to succeed in breeding successfully with these females, and we do not yet fully understand the reasons. "Mounting" took place, but no eggs resulted. This could be because of the genetic distance between George and the tortoises of Northern Isabela.
Scientist Edward Lewis has made DNA scans of tortoises all over the world without finding a match. George's diet is being investigated to ensure there is no deficiency that could be causing his failure to reproduce. We have considered the theoretical possibility of cloning lonesome George, manipulating the gender of the clone, and trying to produce a female. This is theoretically possible, but practically very difficult, and the technology for cloning of tortoises has not yet been developed. Before we attempt cloning of Lonesome George, we feel we must exhaust all other possibilities first.
There is the possibility that other tortoises could exist on George's native island of Pinta. Young tortoises are very small and secretive, and any young tortoises present when George was removed from Pinta would most likely have been overlooked. These tortoises would now be adults and technically easier to find, except that the vegetation of Pinta has responded vigorously to the removal of goats (which were previously destroying this vegetation.) The island is now very hard to get around, and a major campaign must be undertaken to systematically cover the island and definitively conclude that there are no remaining Pinta tortoises to use as a mate for Lonesome George.
If our efforts are unsuccessful, when "Lonesome George" eventually dies, his race ends with him, and will join the other races of giant tortoise that have become extinct in the Galapagos. Heavy depredation by humans was the problem in the past. Today, one of the biggest problems facing the endemic Giant Galapagos tortoise is that of introduced species.
The National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station have eradicated the troublesome goat from Pinta. Many of the native plant species have recovered. There is hope for the recovery of Pinta as there is hope that one day we will find a mate for "Lonesome George" or another Pinta tortoise. If we can find a mate for Lonesome George, we'll be a long ways towards restoring the ecology of one of the most fascinating Galapagos Islands.
Current data about "Lonesome George"
Age: estimated to be 70-80 years
Size: 102 cm length of shell
Health: No indication of any illness or disease
The most recognized symbol of the Galapagos is the tortoise. The islands common name is Spanish for saddle; referring to the shape of the Galapagos tortoise shell. With weights over 500 lbs (250 kg) and shells measuring 59 inches (150 cm) Galapagos Tortoises are among the largest on earth. These land-based turtles are slow moving and known for their long life span of more than 150 years.
The tortoise played an important role in the Theory of Evolution. When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands, the vice-governor of the Islands told him that he could identify what island the tortoise was from simply by looking at him.
The inhabitants...state that they can distinguish the tortoise from different islands; and that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked.---Charles Darwin 1845
Naturalists believe tortoises arrived in the islands clinging to a piece of driftwood from a river mouth along the Pacific Coast. A relatively large tortoise, related to the Galapagos tortoise lives on the South American mainland. The tortoises arrived in San Cristobal then spread throughout the archipelago. Those on individual islands or in isolated parts of the larger islands developed into its own sub-species.
The Galapagos was once home to 15 sub-species of which 11 sub-species still exists. The smallest tortoises like those on Española and Pinta have "saddle backs'.
While the largest of the tortoises, those on Santa Cruz and from the Alcedo Volcano on Isabela have "dome backs". In this isolated habitat these giant tortoises fill the niche occupied by larger vegetarian mammals in continental regions.
They eat grass and cactus fruit, flowers and stems. Soon after the rainy season the tortoises descend the mountain slopes to feed on the grass covered flats. After that grass withers during the dry season they climb the mountain to feed on grasses of the moist meadows.
TORTOISES & MAN
When man arrived in the Galapagos Tortoises numbered in the 100,000's. For millennia these animals had gone unhampered by predators. Ideally suited for rugged life in the Galapagos, tortoises are able to survive with little food and water during times of drought.
As the buccaneers, whalers and fisherman arrived in the islands they hunted tortoises as a source of meat. These same men brought pigs, goats, horses and cows whose existence in the islands threatened young tortoises. They ate the little vegetation that existed in the island and their hooves crushed tortoise eggs and the soft shells of young tortoises.
When the Galapagos National Park Service and Charles Darwin Research Station were established in 1969 all 11 remaining species of tortoises were endangered. One of their top priorities was stabilize the environment for the tortoises. This required eradicating the introduced species, encouragement of breeding and rearing of the young.
TORTOISE REARING CENTER
The Charles Darwin Research Station established a tortoise- rearing project. They have collected tortoise eggs from islands where the species has become endangered from the introduced species. The eggs are brought to the Darwin Station where they are incubated and hatched. The young tortoises are raised until their shells become strong and they can withstand the threat of the introduced predators.
This project, which began in the 1970's has been a success. Of the 11 species that were once endangered 10 species have been brought up to guarded levels. The most noted success story is that of the Española Tortoises. When the project began the Hood Tortoise population consisted of 2 males and 11 females. These tortoises were brought to the Darwin Station. Miraculously a third male was discovered at the San Diego Zoo and brought to the Darwin Station to join the others in a captive breeding program. These 13 tortoises are the parents of over 300 young tortoises now roam free on Española.
In the days of buccaneers and pirates Isla Pinta was a popular stop. The island located in the north of the archipelago was once home to thousands of tortoises. These sea-faring men cherished the tortoises as a valuable source of meat. Tortoises could remain alive in a ship hold for up to a year at sea with little food or other necessities. The sailors would gather as many of the tortoises as the ship could hold.
First the female tortoises were collected, their smaller size made them easier to handle and store. They were also easier to collect, especially during egg laying season, when the females would be on the beach to lay their eggs. As the female population grew thin, the males too were collected. Over the years the tortoise population on Pinta diminished.
By 1906 when the California Academy of Sciences visited Pinta for a scientific research project they discovered the tortoise population had diminished to a mere 3 male tortoises. The scientists collected the tortoises, and thought the island to be barren of the native tortoise.
Years passed and during the 1950's fishermen working the nearby waters wanted to use the islands to restock their meat supply while at sea. Since tortoises were no longer available they needed another readily available source of food. They released feral goats, which quickly multiplied and took over the island devouring the little island vegetation that existed. Over the next few decades the goats flourished and multiplied.
In 1971 when the National Park Service arrived at Pinta the goats had come to dominate the island. The Park Service made the decision to attempt to restore the natural balance to Pinta by eradicating the goats. While the park service didn't find and eradicate all the goats they did find the unthinkable one remaining Pinta Tortoise. He was named "Lonesome George", lonesome because he is the last of his subspecies.
The park service moved 'George' to the Darwin Station where they have made every effort to encourage him to breed with female tortoises from Wolf Volcano on Isabela (Wolf Tortoises were found to be the closest morphologically to the Pinta Tortoises). Yet over the past nearly 30 years of trying, no new tortoises have been born.
The Galapagos National Park Service and Charles Darwin Foundation are working together to raise money, in order to finish eradicating the goats on Pinta and to search the island to see if a mate might possibly exist. In July 2008, tortoise eggs were discovered in the pin that George shares with his companions. The eggs are being incubated with great hopes of a new beginning for the Pinta Tortoise.
Galapagos giant tortoises (Geochelone species)
The Galapagos giant tortoise is the first species that many people think of as representing the natural biodiversity of the archipelago.
Their populations were shattered by the arrival of humans. Hunting tortoises for meat greatly affected their numbers, and destruction caused by introduced species has compounded the problem.
Scientists working for the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) are attempting to restore the Galapagos giant tortoise and the ecosystems it depends on for survival.
Unique to Galapagos
Genetic studies have shown that tortoises in Galapagos probably evolved from a single ancestor.
There are now 11 species of giant tortoises endemic to Galapagos:
• Five are found on Isabela Island, one on each of the large volcanoes connected by wide lava fields that tortoises cannot cross.
• Five are present on Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Pinzón, and Española Islands, respectively.
The last Pinta tortoise, “Lonesome George”, lives at the Charles Darwin Research Station .
The shapes of tortoise shells, or carapaces, vary between species.
Smaller “saddle-backed” types are found on Española or Pinzón.
Large “dome-shaped” tortoises are present on Alcedo volcano (Isabela) and on Santa Cruz Island.
A Galapagos giant tortoise can measure up to 170 centimeters across its carapace and weigh up to 300 kilograms.
Tortoises can live to more than 100 years in age, with the oldest animal thought to have been 170 years old.
Tortoises are vegetarian and eat a wide variety of plants, including Opuntia cacti.
The different carapaces have probably evolved as adaptations to the different environments on each island.
Saddle-back types are raised at the front to allow the tortoises’ long necks to reach for higher vegetation on drier
islands. Dome-shaped tortoises do not need to reach for food on moist islands where lower vegetation is available; however the shape of their shell helps them push through dense growth.
In highland areas, tortoises can be seen wallowing in shallow pools formed by rain or dew dripping from leaves.
Tortoises stand and stretch their necks to give birds access to remove parasites.
When frightened, tortoises retract their heads and legs into the protective shell, making a hissing noise as air escapes from the lungs.
About 250,000 tortoises are estimated to have lived in Galapagos before the arrival of humans.
Current populations stand at around 20,000 individuals.
There were probably 14 species of Galapagos giant tortoises; only 11 remain.
The IUCN Red List categorizes the species as Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered or Extinct in the Wild.
The Floreana tortoise was common in the early 1700’s, but Extinct by the 20 th
century, hunted by whalers, sealers and settlers.
On Santa Fé Island, only remains have been found. Only one specimen was ever found on Fernandina; its remains are now at the California Academy of Science museum in San Francisco.
During the 19thcentury, tortoises were a popular source of fresh meat as they could stay alive for as much as a year without food or water.
Females were hunted first as they were smaller than males and were more accessible in lowland areas during the egg-laying season.
Today, the biggest problem facing the endemic giant Galapagos tortoise on many islands is that of introduced species.
Introduced rats and ants destroy tortoise eggs and consume hatchlings, preventing the regeneration of tortoise populations.
Invasive herbivores, such as goats, donkeys, pigs and cattle, destroy the vegetation and compete with tortoises for food.
Goat populations grow rapidly, causing erosion and changing the appearance of the land.
CDRS research activities
Joint activities by CDF and the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) have succeeded in removing pigs and goats from Northern Isabela, Santiago, and Pinta.
This is paving the way for successful restoration programs helped by CDF botanists as well as vertebrate specialists, leading to a brighter future for the Galapagos giant tortoise.
The CDF provides technical support to the breeding and rearing centers run by the GNPS on San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands. The GNPS
routinely collect tortoise eggs from nests, rearing them under controlled conditions.
Tortoises are normally returned to the wild after their shells reach a width of more than 20 centimeters.
This is particularly important for populations living on islands plagued with black rats that destroy eggs and kill hatchlings, for example Pinzón Island.
Breeding programs rescued the Española species from extinction.
In total, twelve females and two males were found on the island and brought to the breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).
Another male, known as “Diego”, was returned to Galapagos from the San Diego
Zoo. He plays a significant role in the breeding program that has returned over 1400 Española tortoises to the wild.
The last remaining male Pinta tortoise was brought back to the CDRS, where he is housed in a corral with two females from Wolf Volcano, on Isabela. So far he has failed to breed successfully with these females.
Working with communities and establishing protected areas is crucial for the restoration and repatriation of young tortoises close to towns, such as Puerto Villamil on Isabela.
By working together with communities, the CDF are optimistic that the Galapagos giant tortoises will continue to be part of the Galapagos landscape.
Learning from the past is the only way to save the future of these iconic animals.
Pinta giant tortoise (Geochelone abingdoni)
Only one Pinta tortoise remains to tell the story of the existence of this
species. It is a poignant tale illustrating the devastation that followed the arrival of humans to the shores of Galapagos.
Hunting tortoises for meat greatly affected the numbers of tortoises on Pinta Island. The destruction caused by introduced goats compounded the problem.
Scientists working for the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) are attempting to save the Pinta tortoise and are succeeding in restoring the ecosystems on Pinta Island.
Unique to Galapagos
Eleven species of giant tortoise are found throughout the Galapagos Islands. The Pinta tortoise is one of the smaller species.
It has a “saddle-backed” shell or carapace. This has probably evolved as an adaptation to the environment on Pinta Island.
Saddle-back types are raised at the front to allow the tortoise’s long neck to reach for higher vegetation on drier islands.
The sole remaining Pinta tortoise is a male known as “Lonesome George”, who currently resides at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).
Lonesome George was found on Pinta Island in 1971, and taken to the CDRS soon after. He weighs approximately 90 kilograms and measures over 100 centimeters across his carapace.
His exact age is unknown, but is predicted to be between 60 and 90 years.
Vulnerability and CDRS research activities
When “Lonesome George” eventually dies, his species will probably end with him. He will join the other species of giant tortoises that have become extinct in Galapagos.
Hunting by humans was a problem in the past. Their numbers were heavily depleted by whalers and sealers during the 19th century, some ships taking hundreds of tortoises at a time.
Tortoises were a good food source, living up to a year in the holds of the ships without requiring food or water.
Females were generally taken first as they are smaller than males and were more accessible in lowland areas during the egg-laying season.
The last sighting of tortoises on Pinta was in 1906 when the island was visited by the Californian Academy of Sciences who collected three males.
The last remaining Pinta tortoise was brought back to the CDRS in 1971, where there was already a captive breeding program for giant tortoises.
Lonesome George is housed in a corral with two females (G. becki) from Wolf Volcano (Isabela Island). This species looked most similar to the
Pinta species. It was hoped that George would pass along some of his genes into future generations. So far he has failed to breed successfully
with these females. He probably grew up alone and did not learn proper social and mating behavior.
Today, the biggest problem facing the endemic giant Galapagos tortoise on many islands is that of introduced species. Fishermen released goats
on Pinta Island during the 1950’s as an alternative food source. They destroyed the vegetation and competed with any remaining tortoises for
food. The goat population grew rapidly and caused soil erosion. The Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS), with the technical support
of the CDRS, successfully eradicated goats from Pinta in 2001. Since then, many native and endemic plant species have shown signs of recovery.
It is unlikely that more tortoises will be found on Pinta. During a goat monitoring expedition in 2003, a full search performed by the GNPS and
visiting scientists failed to find any other tortoises. A number of carapaces and skeletons were found; these were in poor condition indicating the
animals had been dead for a long time. These are now housed at the CDRS. Collaborating scientist, Edward Lewis, has made DNA scans of many
tortoises from around the world without finding a match. Cloning is theoretically possible but difficult in practice and has not yet been
achieved for reptiles. Until such times as the methods used for cloning are more fully understood, research at the CDRS must focus on other
possibilities. Scientists at the CDRS continue to search for a solution to the Pinta tortoise problem. It would be a true shame to see the end
of another unique species of Galapagos, a single survivor of thousands of years of evolution. In the meantime, the recovery of Pinta is of the utmost
importance, and will require a native herbivore, probably a tortoise from elsewhere in Galapagos, to be reintroduced to the island to restore the balance of the island’s natural ecosystems.
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