Giant tortoise Lonesome George to be embalmed

Picture of "Lonesome George" taken on 21 July 2008 at the Breeding Centre Fausto Llerena of the Charles Darwin station in the Galapagos' Santa Cruz Island Lonesome George was found dead in his corral by his keepers on Sunday

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Lonesome George, the famed giant Galapagos tortoise who died on Sunday, is to be embalmed and kept for future generations, Ecuadorian officials say.

The Pinta Island tortoise, believed to be the last of his subspecies, will be put on display on Galapagos' Santa Cruz island, the environment minister said.

Minister Marcela Aguinaga said an autopsy had found that Lonesome George had died of old age.

He was estimated to have been about 100 years old.

With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) 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.

He became a symbol of the Galapagos Islands, which attract some 180,000 visitors a year and whose flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin's theories on evolution.

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

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