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The Loss of a Galápagos Icon Reinforces Importance of Conservation Efforts

On June 24, 2012, “Lonesome George” passed away. He was the last surviving land tortoise from Pinta Island, one of the northern islands in the Galápagos archipelago, and home to an active volcano.

Thought to be 100 years old, Lonesome George lived at the Charles Darwin Research Station since he was found in 1971. For more than three decades, the Galápagos National Park has been trying to save the Pinta subspecies by finding George a mate. Unfortunately they did not succeed.

The Loss of an Icon

The giant tortoise is an iconic species from the Galápagos and is only found on these islands. Measuring up to 4 feet long and weighing up to 700 pounds, they are the largest living tortoise in the world.

Other subspecies of giant tortoises are still found across the islands and they all have different features. Those that live on the larger islands where there is more rain have “dome” shaped shells, while those that live in drier conditions are smaller tortoises and have a “saddleback” shell. Sadly with Lonesome George’s passing, there will be no more Pinta Island tortoises.

Protecting the Galápagos

Because of the islands’ isolation, many species like the giant tortoise are found only in the Galápagos and have changed little since prehistoric times. Species such as marine iguanas, albatross and Galápagos penguins continue to amaze scientists and delight tourists. However, the rich diversity of marine life in the Galápagos makes it attractive to illegal fishing interests. Pollution and unsustainable tourism also put the unique ecosystem at risk.

WWF spearheaded conservation efforts in the Galápagos, including funding of the construction of the Charles Darwin Research Station. For more than 50 years, we have played an integral role in protecting nature in the Galápagos. We continue our ambitious conservation efforts to protect the islands by bringing together partners, governments and communities.