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 111.

    actually we dont fit in any part of the ecosystem at all. if you take away any species around the world it will have a direct inpact to nature. on the other hand if you get rid of humanity mother nature will flourish and the planet will follow its natural course. I think we are more like a plage , we destroy and consume any available resource without giving anything in return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What about the tortoise Tony in Prague, Czech Republic? Has it ever been determined if he is a Pinta island tortoise or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    aww such a shame. 100 years old, that's no age. Had his whole life ahead of him. RIP George

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Awww.... such a shame... still - bet he will make some great tortoiseshell rimmed glasses for someone...

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    #99 Drunken Hobo
    "We are definitely learning from our past follies."

    I really hope you're right.
    People are unwilling to admit there are problems, because they would then have to make unpleasant or uncomfortable changes to their present lifestyles.
    If Rio+20 is any guide, we will do nothing until we are in obvious, immediate danger.
    By then, of course, it will be too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    87.Avalon - "Such is life another genetic dead end leaves the planet"

    And with comments like that I'm willing to bet there's a fair few folk hoping the next sub species to die is a sub specieis of human beings, refered to as the "Avalon" sub set.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I feel sad that George has died, another species that mankind with all its money and intelligence can't save whilst a lot more money and (lack of) intelligence gets spent on warfare, weaponry and military action.

    RIP George - you're a legend, an inspiration and a lesson to us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Come on BBC, this is sloppy. In addition to the "embalmed" reference already noted,"...the subspecies can live up to an age of 200." Surely, you mean "could".
    "Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile." Wrong again. Quite possibly George was infertile but the eggs were unfertilised

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The next time I get hit by a green shell while playing Mario Kart, i'll think of George...

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    The extinction of Geochelone abingdoni (aka. Lonesome George) says more about human nature and the failure of sustainable development, that any of the empty speeches and useless side events at Rio +20.

    Lonesome George's legacy will live on in all of us... but species will continue to disappear unless we understand the world isn't ours, we share it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    According to QI they are absolutely delicious, which contributed to their downfall once discovered

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Poor not so old George!
    This is however pretty much according to Darwins theory- that the smaller (in number) species are more vulnerable to extinction - predation and species invasion being factors in extinction.
    its shame that we are so involved in such extinctions but that is pretty much the human effect on the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    91 Entropic man - I'd say we don't have the wit to manage it - yet. With our advancements knowledge is now cumulative and therefore we can progress at a far quicker rate. We are definitely learning from our past follies.
    Mankind now has the ability to save the world from catastrophic event like an asteroid strike. That should earn us some points back. (Unfortunately, we could also destroy it).

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Some people seem to think Lonesome George's death is a result of natural selection; but evolution isn't an omnipresent natural force of wisdom that dictates life. Humans move faster than it and have long been able to bypass it, so hunting a species to extinction is in no way "nature's way".
    Fare well, George.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    It is very sad that Lonesome George has died. From the comments here he made a lasting impression on folks.
    I would like to spare a thought for his keeper Fausto Lierena who it seems has cared for LG for many many years. Keepers sometimes have such close relationships with their charges their lives are rocked by such a loss.
    RIP LG

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I once saw a play, name forgotten, in which mankind were put on trial for crimes against the natural world. We were found guilty, to be rendered extinct unless two species would speak for our survival.
    The Dog came fowrward immediately, but it was hard to find another.
    Finally, the only other species with a use for us was the Mosquito!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Just one from a long list of species that man will ultimately destroy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Very sad:

    And a terrible indictment on Man that we should be responsible for the death of a species

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    What does he taste like? ;)


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