Lonesome George (chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) was the rarest living creature alive and an icon to the Galapagos Islands. Scientists believe he was around 100 years old when he died, making him a relatively young adult as Galapagos tortoises can live up to 200 years.
Fausto Llerena, his keeper for almost 40 years, and for whom the breeding center in Santa Cruz Island is named after, found him dead in his corral this morning. Staff at the Galapagos National Park will carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death.
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For 4 decades after finding Lonesome George on Pinta Island in 1972, scientists unsuccessfully tried to breed him with other female tortoises in Galapagos from a similar subspecies. On several attempts George was able to mate with other females, but the eggs were infertile. Thus, with no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left in the planet, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world.
The pen where Lonesome George lived on Santa Cruz Island was visited by thousands of tourists every year.
About 20,000 Galapagos giant tortoises of other subspecies still live in the Islands.
Every year, about 50,000 species around the world become extinct.