Lonesome George Dies
George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme, yet even after 15 years with a female tortoise, all her eggs remained infertile, despite the pair mating.
Lonesome George Dies
Ecuadorian Galapagos National Park spokesperson said that Lonesome George, an estimated 100 year old giant tortoise - the last of the subspecies - has died, a real tragedy as, with no offspring himself, and no other known individuals from his subspecies George was famous as the rarest creature on the planet.
Several decades of environmentalists trying unsuccessfully to get this reluctant, Pinta Island tortoise to fertilise similar, Galapagos Islands subspecies of females have passed frustratingly for his keeper of 40 years now - Fausto Llerena - who found George dead in his corralled enclosure.
Lonesome George was, at an estimated 100, only a young adult, really as this subspecies can live up to 200 or more years. First spotted on the Galapagos island of Pinta in 1972, by a Hungarian scientist, when his subspecies -Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni - had been believed to be extinct, George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme, yet even after 15 years with a female tortoise, all her eggs remained infertile, despite the pair mating.
Lonesome George became, both to the 180,000 visitors a year, and the wider world, the Galapagos Islands symbol, so the fact that, with his death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become officially extinct in extra poignant, though his body will probably be conserved for future generations by embalming. Oddly enough. up to the late 19th century, tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos islands.
Unfortunately, as time went by they were hunted to the point of extinction, for their meat, by sailors and fishermen, their habitat further spoiled by the introduction of goats. It was indeed those differences in appearance between different Galapagos island tortoises that helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution, and thanks to conservation efforts, there are now some 20,000 giant tortoises still living on the Galapagos Islands today.