* Giant tortoise, 100 years old, was a symbol of the
* Galapagos park may decide to embalm his body
By Alexandra Valencia and Eduardo Garcia
QUITO, June 24 Lonesome George, the last
remaining tortoise of his kind and a conservation icon, died on
Sunday of unknown causes, the Galapagos National Park said. He
was thought to be about 100 years old.
Lonesome George was found in 1972 and had become a symbol of
Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, which attracted some 180,000
visitors last year.
"This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the
tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless," the
head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula, told Reuters.
"His life cycle came to an end."
George was believed to be around 100 years old and the last
member of a species of giant tortoise from La Pinta, one of the
smallest islands in the Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park
The giant Galapagos tortoises, which can live up to 200
years old, were among the species that helped Charles Darwin
formulate his theory of evolution in the 19th century.
The Galapagos National Park is considering embalming
George's body so that it can be displayed in the park, Naula
A spokesperson said the park plans to carry out a necropsy
to determine what may have killed the tortoise.
Scientists had been trying to get George to mate since 1993,
when they introduced two female tortoises of a different
subspecies into his pen. They laid eggs twice, but they were
The pen where George lived was visited by thousands of
tourists every year, who often had to scramble with each other
to take pictures of one of the rarest creatures on Earth.
The islands often attract celebrities, including Angelina
Jolie and Brad Pitt earlier this year.
Tortoises were hunted for their meat by sailors and
fishermen to the point of extinction, while their habitat has
been eaten away by goats introduced from the mainland.
Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)