Last Pinta giant tortoise Lonesome George dies

 

Lonesome George, a giant tortoise, was believed to be the last of his subspecies

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Staff at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador say Lonesome George, a giant tortoise believed to be the last of its subspecies, has died.

Scientists estimate he was about 100 years old.

Park officials said they would carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death.

With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world.

For decades, environmentalists unsuccessfully tried to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands.

Park officials said the tortoise was found dead in his corral by his keeper of 40 years, Fausto Llerena.

Tortoises in trouble:

Galapagos Giant tortoise

While his exact age was not known, Lonesome George was estimated to be about 100, which made him a young adult as the subspecies can live up to an age of 200.

Lonesome George was first seen by a Hungarian scientist on the Galapagos island of Pinta in 1972.

Environmentalists had believed his subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) had become extinct.

Lonesome George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme.

After 15 years of living with a female tortoise from the nearby Wolf volcano, Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile.

He also shared his corral with female tortoises from Espanola island, which are genetically closer to him than those from Wolf volcano, but Lonesome George failed to mate with them.

He became a symbol of the Galapagos Islands, which attract some 180,000 visitors a year.

Galapagos National Park officials said that with George's death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become extinct.

They said his body would probably be embalmed to conserve him for future generations.

Tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos islands until the late 19th century, but were later hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction.

Their habitat furthermore suffered when goats were introduced from the mainland.

The differences in appearance between tortoises from different Galapagos islands were among the features which helped the British naturalist Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution.

Some 20,000 giant tortoises of other subspecies still live on the Galapagos.

 

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  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 31.

    Aww poor George. I "met" George in 2006 all alone in his enclosure. I was volunteering at the Tortoise Sanctary on Isabella at the time, the guys there are doing a fantastic job or preserving the other species of Giant Tortoise. They collect the eggs & rear the tortoises in captivity till they are large enough that the rats and ants are no longer a threat, sadly in the wild most young would die

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 30.

    Cloning? Think about it. Dolly wasn't born to an elephant. Anyway it would be like keeping the coal mines going. He's had his time, move over for bigger and better. Evolution rocks, it's who we are and if one day Flipper raises an army and anihilates us it's just nature. No good, no bad, just nature.

  • rate this
    -22

    Comment number 29.

    @ Graphis: Species go extinct all the time, evolution is the constant process of making less suitable organisms extinct. Sad for George is a human quirk, but his species obviously isn't suited to an environment with us in it. Or maybe he was gay.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 28.

    Given we can clone sheep etc. why has this technology been used to make a 'new' George? A younger one may then mate with those close species.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    "Tortoise Lonesome George is dead" >>>>>>>>>>

    "Tortoise Lonesome George has died" >>>>>>>>>

    Thanks in advance >>>>>>> RIP in Turtle Heaven.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 26.

    I was priviliged to meet "George " in March this year and i am sure the
    Darwin Centre will continue to do the excellant work and conservation of
    these wonderful creatures
    RIP George

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 24.

    None of us should EVER have to see the extinction of a species.
    Every living thing depends on everything else, in a giant eco-system: start taking out entire species, and like in a giant game of Ker-Plunk, the rest will fall. George's death takes us one step closer to our own.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 23.

    If we consider ourselves a superior species and can work on a molecular level, why does it still seem so difficult for man to manage it's usage of natural resources of all kinds. We do have to kill to live, this part is evolution but no other species is as wasteful as us. Also with our intelligence why do we struggle still to protect and conserve the species that we put under threat?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 22.

    Its cool, I have about 18 in my back garden.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 21.

    R.I.P George. Never did fail to grin watching you chomp down your dinner.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 20.

    The ultimate mark of how history will judge us is how we managed our "watch" on this planet. We are only ever the temporary stewards nominally in charge. Handing over the reigns of the planet in a better state than we inherited it will be how this generation will be remembered.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 19.

    This extinction is a merely a symptom of a larger problem: what we are doing that is causing extinctions is also impacting people. Our continued existence depends on a planet that can sustain us, yet despite all of the warnings, governments fail to take meaningful action. Effective policy is our only hope of salvation; elected representatives MUST work towards this goal or we have no future.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 18.

    To all those 'Clever' people commenting on how this is just Evolution...

    READ THE ARTICLE - these great animals were HUNTED by man to the point of extinction..... It was Mankind with all our demands on the planet which caused the Extinction of Georges species........

    Fortunately there are other sub-species of giant tortoises so the image lives on.....

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 17.

    Sadly George will not be the last of “last of” that will pass into extinction, many with no recognition. As has been pointed out extinction is a natural part of the Earth’s eco system – but never has one species been so destructive to so many different species in such a short period of time. We really do need to hang our heads in shame for what we continue to do to our planet. A sad day.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 16.

    See ya George. I unexpectedly shed a tear when I read this news - sad day R.I.P.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 15.

    #14
    semisatanic - the name applies. Probably easy for you "to sleep while your bed is burning"

  • rate this
    -39

    Comment number 14.

    And how many new species have been found?
    This is called evolution folks!
    Like climate change it has been happening since day 1.
    Now stop trying to scare people!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 13.

    I'm glad he will be remembered. He was a real ambassador, meeting people from all over the world every day, especially in the last part of his life.
    RIP George

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    @5. Species going extinct is part of the evolutionary process including those affected by other species including man...we are just part of the planets eco system.....

    and in time will no doubt suffer the same fate of poor George's species.

 

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