Posted Monday, June 25, 2012, at 1:44 PM
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.
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.