Lonesome George, the last of the La Pinta species of Galapagos Tortoise, and the face of Galapagos conservation, has passed away. His age was estimated to be over 100 years old, and his image is the logo for the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Lonesome George was also a Guinness Book Record Holder, claiming the title of rarest animal on Earth.
Tortoises were hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thought to be extinct on La Pinta Island, until the early 1970s, when researchers were startled to find a male tortoise on the island. Lonesome George was quickly moved to the safe confines of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where efforts were made to mate him with closely-related tortoise species. Those efforts were in vain though, as true love eluded Lonesome George.
His story is a sad one, and perfectly mirrors the uphill battle of conservation - a species wiped out because of humans, and a species that, despite man's best efforts, could not be saved from extinction. But there is a glimmer of hope in George's tale, a hope that the celebrity status Lonesome George's unique position provided will lead to incredible new energies dedicated to conservation, and make Lonesome George's passing the last of its kind.
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