RIP Lonesome George, Last of the Giant Tortoises of Galapagos

Giant Tortoise Lonesome George, Last of His Kind, Found Dead

Giant Tortoise Lonesome George, Last of His Kind, Found Dead

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June 25 2012 1:44 PM

Giant Tortoise Lonesome George, Last of His Kind, Found Dead

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'Solitario George' (Lonely George), the last giant alive tortoise of this species, native from the Pinta Island, has died.

Photo by RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a tough day for tortoise lovers. Lonesome George, a giant tortoise believed to be the last of the Pinta Island subspecies, has been found dead in his corral in the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador.

George was around 100 years old when he died, still young for a subspecies known to live up to 200. The tortoise was first spotted in 1971 on Pinta Island and became a longtime mascot of the Galapagos Islands conservation initiative. Variations of tortoise species of the Galapagos played a key role in helping Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution.

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Because they were hunted for meat and threatened by the introduction of goats to the islands however, the species were effectively nudged out of existence by humans. Efforts were made to mate Lonesome George with female tortoises of similar subspecies, eggs produced with a female after 15 years of courtship turned out to be infertile. The tortoise’s body will undergo a post-mortem to determine the cause of death, and then be embalmed for posterity. 

Video by Jim Festante.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.