It’s with a heavy heart I report on the passing of Lonesome George. He was found dead by his keeper yesterday. George was the last known of the sub-species Pinta Island Tortoise from the Galápagos Islands, found on one of the Islands in 1971. He was estimated to have been over 100 years old. Attempts to mate him with similar sub-species had failed.
Lonesome George’s name and image were used to launch programs in the Galápagos Islands to protect its unique flora and fauna. The Galápagos are oceanic archipelagos, or groups of islands, with 13 large islands and more than 100 smaller islands formed by underwater volcanoes millions of years ago. The Islands and its waters are home to almost 9,000 species, most not found anywhere else. In 1959 the Galápagos became Ecuador’s first national park, and in 1978 the area was declared a World Heritage Site (Source: WWF).
Work to protect and learn from the biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands is focussed through the Charles Darwin Foundation, an international non-profit organization carrying on its work in agreement with the Ecuadorian government (See: CDF: Who we are). With the help of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNESCO, the Charles Darwin Foundation was founded under Belgian Law in 1959 (See: CDF: History and achievements).
Lonesome George lived at the centre run by the CDF in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. I was fortunate to visit him there in March of last year (when I took this photo of the sign–alas, my photos of him only show him in the distance).
See also: Giant tortoise Lonesome George’s death leaves the world one subspecies poorer (National Post, June 25, 2012)