He was known as Lonesome George for his refusal to mate in captivity. Now the huge Galapagos tortoise, the last in a 10-million-year-old line of Pinta Island tortoise species, has joined his turtle brethren in the spirit world.
At age 100 he was not considered particularly old. Authorities are conducting an autopsy but suspect a heart attack. His longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, discovered the body of the 200-pound, five-foot-long reptile on Sunday morning in George’s pen, according to the Associated Press. Giant tortoises are known to live much longer than that, even in at least one case surpassing 150 years, National Geographic reported. He represented one of several species that are near extinction, as listed in National Geographic.
Lonesome George had lived out his last 40 years away from his native island, having been transplanted to a breeding center on neighboring Santa Cruz island in the 1970s after Pinta Island became overrun by escaped goats.
Lonesome George was part of Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, a turtle subspecies that had been all but wiped out by whalers and seal hunters in the 19th century.
“George was the last of his kind,” Joe Flanagan, the head vet of the Houston zoo, who knew George for more than 20 years, told The Guardian, which did a moving writeup of the notable animal.
“He had a unique personality,” Flanagan said. “His natural tendency was to avoid people. He was very evasive. He had his favourites and his routines, but he really only came close to his keeper Llerena. He represents what we wanted to preserve forever. When he looked at you, you saw time in the eyes.”