Lonesome George, Ecuadorian environmental icon (1912? – 24 June 2012), D.E.P.
Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni became extinct yesterday, with the demise of Lonesome George, of apparently natural causes at an estimated 100 years of age.
The only known Pinta Island tortoise, a sub-species of the Gálapagos giant tortoise, was kidnapped or rescued from Pinta in 1971, and spent the rest of his life at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz, Gálapagos. Although he had several mates in his later years, all were from other subspecies of Gálapagos giant tortoises, and none were able to produce fertile eggs.
As the last of his kind, Lonesome George was a living symbol of the struggle to protect the Gálapagos — and other fragile environments — from the destruction wrought through human activity. While Pinta Island Giant Tortoises, like other Chelonoidis nigra were hunted for their meat, the introduction of goats to the Island destroyed their habitat, leaving George as the only known survivor of his sub-species.
As has been done when other iconic and irreplaceable national figures have passed on — Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Eva Peron, Trigger — the Ecuadorians have announced plans to have Lonesome George embalmed for public display.