Lonesome George in his corral at the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz Island.
Early on Sunday Morning, June 24, Lonesome George, the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise and Galapagos conservation icon, was found dead in his corral at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. Fausto Llerena, a Galapagos National Park ranger who was on the expedition that discovered George and who was his long-term caretaker, found George stretched out in the direction of his watering hole with no signs of life.
Possible causes of death of George will not be known until after a necropsy. The body of Lonesome George, whose age is unknown but estimated at more than 100 years old, is currently being held in a cold chamber to avoid decomposition prior to a necropsy.
According to Johannah Barry, Galapagos Conservancy’s President, “George symbolized the precarious state of biodiversity around the world. He was a catalyst for extraordinary efforts of the Ecuadorian government and an international network of scientists and conservationists who have undertaken efforts restore tortoise populations and to improve the status of other endangered and threatened species in the archipelago. He also became a symbol of the tremendous advances that can be made when science, conservation expertise and political will are aligned on a common cause.”
Lonesome George's empty corral, his home for the past 40 years.
By coincidence, both Johannah Barry and Linda Cayot, GC’s Science Advisor, were in Galapagos at the time of George’s death to participate in an international workshop, partially funded by Galapagos Conservancy and convened by the Galapagos National Park Service, to develop management strategies for the restoration of tortoise populations across Galapagos during the next ten years.
“This event will bring together top experts from around the world to make sure that we capitalize on recent advances in genetics analysis and ecosystem restoration,” explained Edwin Naula. “We will conduct this workshop in honor of Lonesome George.”
Lonesome George’s legacy will be an increased awareness of the importance of biodiversity protection and heightened efforts in both research and management to restore his island of Pinta and all of the other giant tortoise populations of Galapagos.
A group of generous donors have offered to match every gift we receive by December 31st — up to $35,000! Every dollar you give today will go twice as far towards preserving the magnificent biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.