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

    Comment number 51.

    @38. Rach227 I'm not trying to justify it, but you have to remember that humans and their behaviour are natural too. Species have been going extinct for billions of years. There have been several mass extinctions long before humans were around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Humans are part of nature not separate from it. Hunting by humans provides a selection pressure just as hunting by rats does."

    Rats don't know any better;humans do.All the more reason why we shouldn't go destabilising fragile ecosystems.My interest in environment is selfish - we'll benefit more from the planet if we don't destabilise fragile ecosystems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    7.chris hirst

    It's sad, but he has carried his own coffin round for all his life. Good to be prepared.

    What a sick comment. I suppose you think you're funny. Pathetic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    R.I.P. George, Lonesome no more...

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I'd heard about him before but didn't know much other than he might be/have been the last of his species.

    100 years old! Did he get a telegram from the Queen?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I'm sorry for the GT Tortoise, though he undoubtedly had a good innings. Bet he had some stories. I can't believe this is a subject for a BBC forum though, when there's no space for us readers to let off steam about last night's England match for example. Plus, as usual, practically all the forums are closed for comments including the top story on the Have Your Say page, Mr Cameron and benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Awfully sad.

    I think the telling part of this article is that he died in his "corral". Even on the Galapagos man can't allow animals to live naturally in their habitat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Humans are part of nature not separate from it. Hunting by humans provides a selection pressure just as hunting by rats does. The problem is that we humans have become so efficient at imposing rapid changes on ecosystems that natural selection cannot work fast enough to allow species to evolve to cope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @Rach227: With 20,000 giant tortoises of other subspecies left in the Galapagos Islands I think it would be very hard to prove whether this was natural extinction or humanity eating all his sub-species - maybe his sub-species were a natural genetic dead end? Maybe mankind has eaten all his sub-species, or maybe there was an unknown female out there and by putting him in a cage we did doom them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    To those who think extinction due to man is somehow 'unnatural', remember that humans and their effects are no less natural than anything else. To think humans are special is narcissistic - get over yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    This makes me more sad than the overdose of any pop singer! Another species lost because of mans ignorance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The ignorance of those calling this extinction "natural" and "just evolution" is staggering.

    You clearly don't have a CLUE about what you're talking about. Can I suggest you go away and read some books on the subject instead of spouting such foolish nonsense. Humans changing the world so fast that animals don't have the chance to evolve & adapt is NOT EVOLUTION.

  • Comment number 39.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Did those of you who said extinction is natural not read the last few sentences of this article? They're extinct because we hunted them for meat and introduced a non native species to the island. Your'e telling me that's natural? R.I.P lonesome George don't think he should be embalmed either that just makes the whole process even less natural

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    This is sad. We're in a strange situation now where we can no longer guarantee that the Earth is changing through 'natural' evolution or human interference. And this is causing conservation issues, as we clearly cannot stop evolution and freeze the planet's eco-system as it is now just because it's what we know. We have to embrace change but how do we know if it's natural or if we caused it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Sad that he has passed on, but, didn`t he have "One Foot in the Grave" for quite some time!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Evolution in action!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    While it is sad that the last of a sub-species has died, surely this is natural - death is a natural part of life and a huge amount of species have become extinct prior to the rise of humanity and many will continue to go extinct, heck, even we as a species will meet our end, no matter how much we think we're immortal. He lived to a good age; what is actually sad is that humans put him in a cage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I hope they save some genetic material for cloning attempts. There is no reason for this species to become extinct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Having seen poor George a couple of years ago looking a bit miserable, sitting in a large concrete water dish in a small enclosure at the Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz island, I can't help but feel he might have been better off roaming free on his own island of Pinta.

    Good that wild Torts are airlifted by helecopter away from active lava flows nowadays. That's progress !


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