We’re sad to report that ‘Lonesome George’, the world’s last Pinta giant tortoise died last night at the young age of 100 in the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. He was found dead in his enclosure by his long-time keeper Fausto Llerena. As the last surving member of the sub-species ‘Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni’, George was famous for being the world’s rarest creature.

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Hungarian scientists were surprised to find George in 1971, having believed his species to be extinct. When humans arrived on the Island the giant tortoise was hunted to near extinction by sailors and fishermen, but the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has been able to increase the overall population of tortoises from 3,000 in 1974 to today’s 20,000.

Several attempts have been made to save his sub-species from complete extinction. Females from genetically similar tortoise species were brought in with no result. George also lived for several years at a breeding centre where his close courtship with two females from another closely related breed only resulted in infertile eggs.

Passing away at the age of 100 is considered an early death for tortoises – many reach the respectful age of 200 years old, and might have even crossed paths with Mr. Darwin himself. As the last of his sub-species, George’s body will be embalmed for future generations.

R.I.P. Lonesome George.

+ Galapagos Conservancy

+ Charles Darwin Foundation

Lead image by A. Davey via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license. Image of Lonesome George being carried by Reuters via Guardian.co.uk