Galapagos Tortoise - Mr Turpen

Galapagos Tortoise - Mr Turpen

       14 January 2000              5c, 20c, 35c, $5.00                                       Mint and CTO                 $5.60

                                                                                                   FDC                               $6.60 
 Technical Details

Release Date:             14 January 2000
Denominations:           5c, 20c, 35c, $5.00
Designer:                    Dave Gunson, NZ
Printer:                       Southern Colour Print, Dunedin NZ
Process:                     Litho offset
Paper:                        De La Rue Litho stamp paper
Stamp Size:                35 x 35.77 mm with 35mm tab
Perforation Gauge:      14.25 per 2 cm
Format:                       Horizontal se-tenant strip
Mint and CTO:           $5.60
First Day Cover:         $6.60

This issue recognises the deep regard the Pitcairn Islanders have for their sole surviving Galapagos Tortoise, Mr Turpen.  It also celebrates the protection order the Island Council has passed for the tortoise.

Mr Turpen was one of five Galapagos Tortoises, which arrived on Pitcairn between 1937 and 1951, brought to the island by Irving Johnson, skipper of the 96 foot Brigantine Yankee.  By the mid-1960s, only Mr Turpen was left alive and he survives to this day.

Mr Turpen was relatively small when he arrived and was easily manhandled ashore.  Today he is fully grown and cannot be so readily transported back to his main haunt on Tedside when he has wandered off limits.  On occasion he will find his way over to the gardens where despite a reputation for being a slow mover, he will destroy a vegetable plot in no time, if left unchecked.  If he is spotted anywhere hear the gardens, the tractor is called into service and he is coerced onto the transport tray for his journey back to Tedside.  he has been known to wander as far as St Pauls where he is allowed to remain providing he does not venture back towards the gardens in Aute Valley.

Visitors to the island at times can spend many days trying to find him.  During the recent rat eradication project he was caged to ensure his safety, and had his food served to him throughout the day.  It can be impressive to watch him use his considerable weight to bring down a banana palm just to eat the flowers from the top.

The protection order makes it an offence punishable by a sixty day prison term should anyone kill, injure, capture, maim or cause harm or distress to the tortoise.  The ordinance states that it is the duty of every person to report any harm, sickness or danger affecting the tortoise without delay to any member of the Island Council.

Although it has often been suggested that a 'mate' should be sought for Mr Turpen, it is unlikely that the Ecuadorian authorities would allow another tortoise to be shipped to Pitcairn.