'Lonesome' tortoise's lonely death

By Paul Harper

Lonesome George was the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise species. Photo / AFP
Lonesome George was the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise species. Photo / AFP

Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta Island tortoise, has died.

Lonesome George was found dead in his corral at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Centre in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, by members of the Galapagos National Park Service.

Park ranger and long-time caretaker Fausto Llerena found the tortoise stretched out in the direction of his watering hole with no signs of life.

The cause of death will not be known until a necropsy has been performed. His body will be held in a cold chamber to avoid decomposition.

The age of Lonesome George is not known, but he is estimated to be more than 100 years old.

Lonesome George was found on Pinta in 1972 although Pinta tortoises (Chelonoidis abingdoni) were thought to be extinct. Attempts to breed George with similar tortoises all failed.

The plight of Lonesome George provided a catalyst for an Ecuadorian efforts to restore not only tortoise populations throughout the archipelago but also improve the status of other endangered and threatened species.

* Former New Zealand Herald travel editor Jim Eagles encountered Lonesome George during a visit to the Galapagos Islands several years ago. Read about his meeting with the world's 'rarest living creature'.

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