Lonesome George was believed to be about 100 years old -- the last in a subspecies with a projected lifespan of 200 years. His life was suddenly and inexplicably cut short this weekend, bringing an end to his line, and highlighting the ongoing struggle between humans and rare animal species for survival on the Galapagos Islands. For more information on the mythical and totemic symbolism of the tortoise, see here.
Lonesome George," the last survivor of the subspecies Chelonoidis abingdoni of the giant tortoises ("galapagos" in Spanish) that gave Ecuador's Galapagos Islands their name, was found dead over the weekend in its corral, Galapagos National Park said.
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The tortoise came from Pinta Island, the southernmost of the Galapagos, and was rescued in 1972 by a team of hunters who were there to eradicate the goats, a species introduced by man that had virtually destroyed the habitat and brought the giant tortoises to the brink of extinction.
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Different methods were used to stimulate reproduction, at first with females of the subspecies from Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island, with which George finally mated after being in their company for 15 years, but the eggs were infertile.
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Next month an international workshop will be held to formulate a strategy for managing the tortoise populations over the next 10 years to ensure their comeback, Galapagos National Park director Edwin Naula said.