Lonesome George: A Conservation Icon

| June 24, 2012 | 6 Comments
lonesome george galapagos tortoise Lonesome George: A Conservation Icon

Lonesome George—the last known individual of the Pinta Island tortoise.

Kathryn and I just learned (via a tweet from Bruce Poon Tip) that  Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise of his kind, died on Sunday of unknown causes. He was thought to be about 100 years old. A quick google confirmed his passing (via Reuters):

“This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless,” the head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula, told Reuters. “His life cycle came to an end.” George was believed to be around 100 years old and the last member of a species of giant tortoise from La Pinta, one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park said.

Kathryn and I were fortunate enough to have visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre in December of 2010 and viewed Lonesome George who, living up to his name, was resting all by himself in his pen. In fact, the pen where George lived was visited by thousands of tourists every year, each seizing the opportunity to take a picture of one of the rarest creatures on Earth. We certainly cherish our photo of him (above).

An important icon

Indeed, Lonesome George was a sad—but important—icon. Watching him was like watching a species go extinct. His plight certainly touched all who saw and heard about him, drawing tourists from all over the world to the Islands and loosening wallets to help preserve the Archipelago.

The Galapagos National Park had been offering a reward of $10,000 for the discovery of a Pinta female, which was necessary to save the subspecies. Without a viable female, the Pinta Island tortoise had been considered functionally extinct in captivity; now, however, Lonesome George’s death signifies the complete extinction of the subspecies.

All may not be lost

According to Wikipedia, recently another male tortoise by the name of Tony, who currently resides in Prague Zoo, was discovered as most likely being an additional pure bree