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Lonesome George, The Last Known Pinta Giant Tortoise, Has Died
June 25, 2012
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Lonesome George, a Pinta tortoise who became known as the rarest creature in the world, has died aged about 100 years old, according to staff at the Galapagos National Park. The cause of death is unknown - Pinta Island tortoises can live up to 200 years. George is believed to be the last surviving member of his subspecies.

For decades, environmentalists tried to get George to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies, without success. In 2008, after 15 years living with two female tortoises, Lonesome George surprised his keepers by mating with one of his female companions, but the resultant eggs turned out infertile.

Lonesome George in 2008

Officials at Galapagos National Park say that with George's death, the Pinta tortoise species is extinct. Tortoises were once plentiful on the Galapagos islands, but as of the late 19th century, sailors and fishermen started hunting them for their meat to the point of extinction, and the introduction of goats from the mainland harmed the tortoises' natural habitat. 20,000 giant tortoises of other species still live on Galapagos.

George's Keepers Prepare To Move His Body

Park officials say they plan to embalm George's body so that future generations will be able to see what he looked like when alive.

While hunting and the intentional introduction of outside species have had a negative effect on some species, another possible threat to Galapagos wildlife is tourism. A rat was discovered in the Galapagos archipelago in 2007, which is believed to have been brought on the British cruise liner MV Discovery, and tourist motor yachts have been blamed for leaving trash on the islands and in the water.

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