The Galapagos tortoise, Lonesome George, 100-years old died on Sunday of unknown causes.
The head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula said in a statement, “This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless. His life cycle came to an end.”
Lonesome George has no known offspring and for decades, environmentalists tried to get the Pinta Island Tortoise to reproduce with females from similar species on the Galapagos Islands.
Scientists would try different attempts to get Lonesome George to mate with other giant tortoises from the Galápagos Islands and to eventually repopulate Pinto. All their attempts failed. Artificial insemination did not work, nor did a $10,000 reward offered by the Ecuadorean government for a suitable mate.
“The only remaining Pinta Island giant tortoise and celebrated symbol of conservation efforts in the Galapagos has no known offspring,” the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador said.
Joe Flanagan, the head vet of the Houston zoo, who knew George for more than 20 years recalled Lonesome George’s personality, “George was the last of his kind. He had a unique personality. His natural tendency was to avoid people. He was very evasive. He had his favorites and his routines, but he really only came close to his keeper Llerena. He represents what we wanted to preserve for ever. When he looked at you, you saw time in the eyes.”
Lonesome George was rescued in 1972 and came from Pinta Island, the southernmost of the Galapagos. Hunters destroyed the habitat of these giant tortoises and brought them to near extinction.
Conservation scientists say that Lonesome George was important in helping recognize the loss of Galápagos tortoises and gave inspiration to restore the Galápagos Islands. Richard Knab of the Galápagos Conservancy, which is running giant tortoise breeding programmes with the Ecuadorean government said in a statement, “Because of George’s fame, Galápagos tortoises which were down to just a few animals on some islands have recovered their populations. He opened the door to finding new genetic techniques to help them breed and showed the way to restore habitats.”
Galapagos National Park officials said that with George’s death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become extinct. They also said his body will most likely be embalmed to conserve him for future generations to see when they visit the Galapagos National Park.
“Lonesome George’s legacy will be an increased effort in both research and management to restore his island of Pinta and all of the other giant tortoise populations of Galapagos,” the park said in a statement.
Lonesome George Died
Galapagos Tortoise Died
Lonesome George, the last giant Galapagos tortoise, dies aged 100 at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador.
Lonesome George the Galapagos Tortoise
Simon Reeve visits Lonesome George while he visits the Galapagos islands and tells his story.