Goodbye George, the last giant Galapagos tortoise
It was a sad day for Darwinians yesterday when the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador announced that Lonesome George had died.
George was the last giant tortoise of his kind, the sole surviving member of a species from La Pinta, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos. He was found in 1972 and had become a conservation icon for Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. He was estimated to be over 100 years old.
"This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George (and) his body was motionless," said the head of the park, Edwin Naula. "His life cycle came to an end."
Giant Galapagos tortoises can live up to 200 years and were among the many species that helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution.
The park said they had planned a necropsy to determine what caused George's death, after which they would consider embalming his body so that he could still be on display. The park gets over 180,000 visitors a year with George being one of the biggest attractions. The islands also pull in celebrities; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the Galapagos recently.
Scientists had been trying to get George to mate since 1993 and introduced two females of a different subspecies into his pen. Both partners laid eggs twice, but they were all infertile.
Some 20,000 giant tortoises from another species still live on the Galapagos. Sailors and fishermen once hunted these creatures for their meat to the point of extinction and their habitat has been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland.
Published: 25th June 2012