Sad news out of the Galapagos Islands: Lonesome George, believed to be the last remaining member of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies, was found dead in his corral yesterday morning by his caretaker, Fausto Llerena.
He was around 100 years old at the time of his death — fairly young for a subspecies with a lifespan of about 200 years.
A longtime mascot of the Galapagos Islands conservation initiative, Lonesome George was first spotted on Pinta Island by a Hungarian malacologist in 1971. All subsequent efforts to get the giant tortoise to successfully reproduce with females of similar subspecies failed.
There was much excitement after Lonesome George managed to mate with a female Galapagos tortoise from Wolf Volcano, but the eggs turned out to be infertile. Swiss zoology grad student Sveva Grigioni lent a hand by manually stimulating George in an effort to incite his interest in the Espanola island tortoises sharing his corral, but to no avail. "He started to try copulation but it was like he didn't really know how," Grigioni said.
Being the last known Pinta Island giant tortoise in existence, Lonesome George's death means the extinction of his subspecies. His body will undergo necropsy to determine a cause of death before being embalmed for posterity.
[photo via AP]