|A CONSERVATION ICON: Lonesome George, the last known
Pinta Island tortoise, has passed but his legacy lives on
Lonesome George, famously known as the last of the Pinta Island tortoises, sadly passed away at the end of last month. Estimated to be about 100 years old, Lonesome George was discovered in 1972 in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. George was the only living Pinta Island tortoise and spent 40 years as an icon of the Galapagos Islands’ conservation efforts.
Long before George’s time, whalers hunted giant tortoises nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Farmers then introduced goats to the islands, and they consumed most of the giant tortoises’ food sources, which depleted the population even more.
A researcher discovered Lonesome George in the ’70s and moved him to the Charles Darwin Research Station to protect him. In an effort to keep his species alive, mates were provided for George, though all mating attempts failed. He became a symbol for wildlife conversation, both for the islands and internationally. His image is used as the logo for the Galapagos National Park, which we visit on some tours, and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
The government of Ecuador used George’s plight as motivation to restore the tortoise populations on the islands and improve the status of other endangered and threatened species. Lonesome George’s passing reminds us that the power of change and preservation is in our hands, and that we must continue to make an effort to protect all species.