Lonesome George was a Giant Pinta Tortoise and, for many years, the Galapagos Islands’ most famous resident. He has become the symbol of species extinction all over the world because when he died on June 24, 2012, he was thought to be the last of his species, Chelonoidis abingdonii.
Lonesome George was found by Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi in 1971. The Pinta species of giant tortoises had been wiped out by feral goats. George was thought to be the last survivor of his kind and was taken to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. The staff introduced George to two females of a different subspecies in hopes that he would breed with them. They managed to produce several clutches of eggs, but none hatched. The Pinta tortoise was pronounced functionally extinct when George went into captivity. He died at the age of 100 in his pen.
In late 2012, researchers identified 17 tortoises that are partially descended from the same subspecies as Lonesome George, so he may not have actually been the last of his species. There may be some purebred Pinta tortoises lurking on the slopes of their island.
I was lucky enough to see Lonesome George when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station in 2008. He was munching on watermelon that day and seemed like a happy tortoise.
The video above shows how Lonesome George has been preserved so people can continue to see him as the last known individual of his species.
Sources: American Museum of Natural History
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This post in part of the AtoZ Challenge. Please click on the sunflower AtoZ icon in the sidebar to go to the official list of participating blogs. This year my theme is the Galapagos Islands. I am in the process of writing the first of my Midge & Snig mystery series set in the islands. In my research, I have come across a plethora of interesting facts and images. The vast majority of my research won’t get included in the book, but it’s fun to share what I’ve learned with you all.