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 91.

    #81 Drunken Hobo
    "we're not the first species that destroys its environment, we are the first to understand how"

    The fly (#71) evolved to exploit a transient resource. It destroys mushrooms, but always finds another.

    We have the opposite problem, our food supply and enviromnent need constant maintainence.

    We have the intelligence to exploit our planet, but not the wit to manage it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Whilst it is admittedly very sad, the implication is that when he was younger there were females of his sub-species around, George was obviously not a player. The guy lived 100 years, he needed to come out of his shell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    "With all the cloning going on, why can't Lonesome George be cloned "

    a) cloning technology currently not viable for reptiles.
    b) for a viable species it takes several pairs of parents with genetic variation

    Cloning is far from an answer, the truth is that it was already too late for this subspecies, Today, just final nail in coffin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    George may not have been cuddly, pretty or cute but I find the story of the end of his line very sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Such is life another genetic dead end leaves the planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Chalk up another black-mark against mankind.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    I've seen some from the Seychelles island, perhaps they can try breeding from those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Embalmed? You surely don't mean embalmed. Maybe stuffed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    With all the cloning going on, why can't Lonesome George be cloned - including adjustments to "X" and "Y" to produce male & female?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    73. makar - thread killer
    "Why do we always work against nature rather than with it?"

    Couldn't agree more. There are many species that could have been saved if man had more foresight and less greed.

    Thylacine, Quagga, Passenger Pigeon, Caribbean Monk Seal, Pyrenean Ibex, Bubal Hartebeest, Javan Tiger and the Baiji River Dolphin to name but a few. All driven to extinction by Man's direct action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    69 Entropic man - As you point out, we're not the first species that destroys its environment, but we are the first species to understand how we are affecting the planet and the first that will be able to prevent its own demise.

    I'd say humanity is becoming more responsible the more we learn and extincions such as Lonesome George are becoming rarer, as our efforts to save his species have shown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I get more upset when I hear stories about animal dying than humans. Oh well, thats just me. RIP Turtle you will be missed :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    filmed by no less than Sir David Attenborough!
    It is such a shame the Charles Darwin Research Centre could not get him to breed, and I heard about all the various methods they had tried over the years. They are doing a great job in trying to raise the tortoise population after so many were killed (for food) by man. I hope they continue with success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Dinosaurs were on this earth for far longer than man has or ever will be the way we are destroying our own ecosystem. Does mankind think that logging, hunting, poaching creatures that can't fight back is the answer to feed the hungry and feed our own vanity. When the world is a desert it will be all too late. If there is a God the worst thing he ever did was to put us on the planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Sad, so sad. Especially since he was a young adult who could live 100 more years. Probably in the future there would be a technology to help the specie to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    It's a real shame that George has died and that even when he was in his 'prime' he was unable to father any offspring. I am sure this is not the only species that has disappeared in my lifetime but it is the one that has unusually affected me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Pinta giant tortoise Lonesome George was an occupant of a species island in the Galapagos Islands. Every species forest, species island, species desert and species sea need to remain whole. They are part of the natural landscape and they are of, by and for all the all the plants and animals that are native to those places.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Its a sad day to see the last of something go. But its the natural way, no race survives forever. Survival of ones race in a constant battle and this type of tortoise lost. Many have claimed that humans fault, but everything that is happening to earth is natural, or it wouldn't happen. Simple really. Do you think if our positions were swapped the tortoise would have destroyed our race? properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.


    It MIGHT just be possible to "reverse" breed the species as they been trying with other extinct species, but it would never be as true as the pure breed.


    While perhaps there may or may not be some possibilities in what you describe, it is quite a typical modern attitude to fix the symptoms rather than the causes. Why do we always work against nature rather than with it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    45. chiptheduck

    "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."

    Did you even read the article? There were attempting to get him to breed so the species wouldn't die out. Other species roam free with assistance in their early years to ensure survival.


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