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Jun 262012
 

Lonesome George, last-of-his-kind Galapagos tortoise, dies Photo: Stringer/Files

A lumbering giant Galapagos tortoise known as Lonesome George lifts his head up during a walk in his protected home in the island chain in Puerto Ayora this February. Lonesome George was the last remaining tortoise of his kind and a conservation icon
Photo: (c) Stringer/Files

Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise of his kind and a conservation icon, died on Sunday of unknown causes, the Galapagos National Park said. He was thought to be about 100 years old.

Lonesome George was found in 1972 and had become a symbol of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, which attracted some 180,000 visitors last year.

“This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless,” the head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula, told Reuters. “His life cycle came to an end.”

George was believed to be around 100 years old and the last member of a species of giant tortoise from La Pinta, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park said.

The giant Galapagos tortoises, which can live up to 200 years old, were among the species that helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution in the 19th century.

The Galapagos National Park is considering embalming George’s body so that it can be displayed in the park, Naula said.

A spokesperson said the park plans to carry out a necropsy to determine what may have killed the tortoise.

Scientists had been trying to get George to mate since 1993, when they introduced two female tortoises of a different subspecies into his pen. They laid eggs twice, but they were infertile.

The pen where George lived was visited by thousands of tourists every year, who often had to scramble with each other to take pictures of one of the rarest creatures on Earth.

The islands often attract celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt earlier this year.

Tortoises were hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland.

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

First published in World Environment News

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Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic maintains a lifelong passion for using the written word to promote the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on both radio and TV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in regional and national newspapers. Nic is a director of Whale Watch West Cork.com and Whales World Wide.com

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