Tue, Jun 26, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Famed Galapagos tortoise dies, ends species’ existence


Lonesome George is seen on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz in an undated image made available by journal “Current Biology.”

Photo: EPA

The giant tortoise named Lonesome George, whose failed efforts to produce offspring turned him into the symbol of disappearing species, was found dead on Sunday, officials at the Galapagos National Park announced.

Lonesome George was believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies and had become an ambassador of sorts for the islands off Ecuador’s coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution.

The tortoise’s age was not known, but scientists believed he was about 100 — not especially old for giant tortoises, who can live well over a century.

Various mates had been provided for Lonesome George after he was found in 1972 in what proved unsuccessful attempts to keep his subspecies alive.

Attempts were initially made to mate Lonesome George with two female tortoises from Wolf Volcano, but the eggs they produced were infertile.

He lived at a tortoise breeding center on the archipelago’s island of Santa Cruz. He was found Sunday morning in his pen by his longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, the park said in a statement.

The park said the cause of his death would be investigated.

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