The last of the Pinta Island tortoises | News | DW | 25.06.2012
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The last of the Pinta Island tortoises

Lonesome George, the only remaining Pinta Island tortoise, has been found dead in the Galapagos National Park

A turtle is carried by rangers in Pinta Island, northern waters of the Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador

A conservation icon, Lonesome George the tortoise had become an ambassador for the islands off Ecuador's coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution.

He lived at a tortoise breeding center on the archipelago’s island of Santa Cruz. He was found Sunday morning in his pen by his longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, the park said in a statement.

The Galapagos' giant tortoise population was decimated after the arrival of humans but a recovery program run by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has increased the overall population from 3,000 in 1974 to 20,000 today.

George's precise age was not known. Scientists believe he was about 100 years, which is not particularly old for giant tortoises.

Various mates had been provided for George after he was found in 1972 in what proved to be unsuccessful attempts to keep his subspecies alive.

The park said the cause of his death would be investigated.

jm/ccp (AP, AFP)