Discovered in 1972, Lonesome George has become the iconic symbol of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands and is believed to have been the last remaining member of his species of giant tortoise still alive.
George was found lifeless in his pen early Sunday morning. According to Edwin Naula
, the head of the Galapagos National Park: "The park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George, his body was motionless."
"His life cycle came to an end," said Naula. However, the park plans to run tests to determine the exact cause of death.
Park officials are also considering embalming George's body so that it can be displayed says Mr. Naula.
Scientists have been trying to get George to mate for nearly twenty years without any luck. With George being the last of his species, the only option was to introduce him to female tortoises of a different subspecies. The attempts only led to infertile eggs.
Giant Galapagos tortoises have been known to live up to nearly 200 years and are credited to be among the many species Charles Darwin observed as he formulated his theory of evolution.
Hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen throughout the centuries, and with their natural habitat shrinking due to outside influences, the Giant tortoise has been long facing extinction.
Once numbering over 250,000 in the 16th century then dwindling to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s, there are approximately 20,000 giant tortoises still alive on the Galapagos today.