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Lonesome George, beloved Galapagos Islands giant tortoise, to be embalmed


Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island Tortoise, pictured at Galapagos National Park's breeding center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island in March 2009. He has been found dead at the age of 100.



Lonesome George is dead, but he will never be forgotten.

That is the hope of Ecuador’s environment minister, Marcela Aguinaga, who announced today that the beloved Galapagos Islands giant tortoise would be embalmed and put on display on Santa Cruz Island, the BBC reported.

Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies, Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, and a celebrated icon for the region’s conservation movement, passed away on Sunday.

Park officials found his body stretched out in the direction of his watering hold in his enclosure on Santa Cruz Island, Agence France-Presse reported.

The results of an autopsy showed he had died of natural causes, the Associated Press said.

His death came a shock to park officials. Lonesome George was believed to be 100 years old, which made him relatively young for a species that can live for 200 years, and appeared to be healthy.

"He was in good condition. On Friday, the last day he fed, he ate normally. There was nothing to suggest that this would occur," biologist Washington Tapia, of the Galapagos National Park, was quoted by AFP saying.

Lonesome George was discovered in 1972. At the time, experts had believed tortoises of his type were already extinct. 

Conservationists tried to get the giant tortoise to breed with females from a similar subspecies, but to no avail. Lonesome George lived up to his name and remained a bachelor for life.

Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos, which draws more than 170,000 visitors a year and helped to inspire Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution.

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