Tuesday, 26 June 2012

World’s most famous tortoise, Lonesome George, is dead and his species is extinct

Pinta Island tortoise is now extinct

June 2012. Lonesome George, the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise and Galapagos conservation icon, was found dead in his corral at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, by members of the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS).

Fausto Llerena, the park ranger who discovered George and has been his long-term caretaker, was unhappily surprised when he arrived at Lonesome George's corral. Fausto discovered George stretched out in the direction of his watering hole with no signs of life.
Found in 1972 but never managed to breed again
Possible causes of death of this individual, the sole survivor of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdoni), will not be known until after an autopsy. Lonesome George was found on Pinta Island in 1972 although Pinta tortoises were thought to be extinct at that time.

Since then, Lonesome George has been part of the Tortoise Program of the Galapagos National Park Service. Various efforts were made to get George to reproduce; two female tortoises collected on Wolf Volcano (Isabela Island) were put in Lonesome George's corral and these females did produce some eggs after 15 years with Lonesome George, but unfortunately all of the eggs were infertile. Later two females from the Espanola tortoise population, the species most closely related to Pinta tortoises genetically, were with George until the end, but without any result.
Spurred greater conservation efforts
The plight of Lonesome George provided a catalyst for an extraordinary effort by the government of Ecuador to restore not only tortoise populations throughout the archipelago but also improve the status of other endangered and threatened species.
Edwin Naula, Director of the GNPS, stated, "This July, the GNPS is convening an international workshop to focus on management strategies for the restoration of tortoise populations during the next ten years. The workshop will be held in honour of Lonesome George. "
Lonesome George's legacy will be an increased effort in both research and management to restore his island of Pinta and all of the other giant tortoise populations of Galapagos.

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