|Death: ||Jun. 24, 2012|
Lonesome George (Spanish: Solitario Jorge) is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdoni, one of eleven subspecies of Galápagos tortoise native to the Galápagos Islands. He has been labelled the rarest creature in the world, and is a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and internationally. It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel.
George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by American snail biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi. The island's vegetation had been decimated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous G. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, Geochelone nigra becki from Wolf Island, in the hope that his genotype would be retained in the resulting progeny. This subspecies was thought to be genetically closest to George's; however any offspring successfully hatched from George and his consorts would be intergrades, not purebreds of the Pinta subspecies.
George is estimated to be 60–90 years of age, and is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state.
In May 2007, analysis of genomic microsatellites (DNA sequences) suggested that other individuals of Geochelone nigra abingdoni may still exist. Researchers have identified one male tortoise from the neighboring Galápagos island of Isabela which has half his genes in common with George's subspecies. This animal must be a first generation intergrade between the subspecies of the islands Isabela and Pinta. It is possible that a pure Pinta tortoise lives among the 2,000 tortoises on Isabela.
Attempts at mating Lonesome George were unsuccessful for several decades, possibly due to the lack of a female of his own subspecies, and prompted researchers at the Darwin Station to offer a $10,000 reward for a suitable mate. On July 21 2008, it was reported that George had unexpectedly mated with one of his female companions. A total of thirteen eggs were collected and placed in incubators. However, on November 11 2008, The Charles Darwin Research Center reported that 80% of the eggs showed weight loss characteristic of being infertile. To the disappointment of the Darwin Center, by December 2008 the remaining eggs had failed to hatch and x-rays showed them to be infertile.
However, on 21 July 2009, exactly one year after first announcing George had mated, the Galapagos National Park announced that a second clutch of five eggs had been laid by one of George's female companions. The park authority expressed its hope that the second clutch of eggs, which it described as being in perfect condition, might prove to be fertile. The eggs have been moved to an incubator. "Now we have to wait for the incubation period of 120 days to find out whether they are fertile", the Galapagos National Park has said.
On 24 June 2012 at 8:00am local time, Edwin Naula, the Director of the Galápagos National Park announced that Lonesome George was found dead. Fausto Llerena (George's caretaker for 40 years) found Lonesome George dead in his habitat.
Due to his age, Naula suspects natural causes for George's death. A necropsy will be made and currently George's body is being preserved for the process to be completed properly. Further details will be provided once the necropsy results are available.
Created by: sideshow
Record added: Oct 20, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 43349615