One of the Rarest Creatures in the World Is Now Dead

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While we were at the beach having the best weekend ever, tragedy struck in Ecuador. Lonesome George, a giant and awesome tortoise believed to be the last of his subspecies, died on Sunday at the Galapagos National Park. The cause of his death is not yet known. He was roughly 100 years young. 

A spokesperson for the park told Reuters that a necropsy (meaning an autopsy of a non-human) will be performed to determine what may have killed Lonesome George, who had become somewhat of a "conservation icon," attracting thousands of tourists a year, "who often had to scramble with each other to take pictures of one of the rarest creatures on Earth." 

The park will also consider embalming L.G.'s body for display. 

L.G. was first spotted on the Galapagos Island of La Pinta in 1972, according to BBC News. Environmentalists previously believed his subspecies of tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) had become extinct. This made L.G. one of a kind, the undefeated O.G. of the tortoise world. But while scientists nerded out about his discovery (with reason -- Charles Darwin used giant Galapagos tortoises to help formulate his theory of evolution), L.G.'s status failed to have much of an effect on the lady tortoise population.

For decades, environmentalists unsuccessfully tried to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands.

...After 15 years of living with a female tortoise from the nearby Wolf volcano, Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile.

He also shared his corral with female tortoises from Espanola island, which are genetically closer to him than those from Wolf volcano, but Lonesome George failed to mate with them.

According to Reuters, giant Galapagos tortoises can live for up to 200 years. We wanted you to live for 200 years, L.G. We really did. 

Let us take a moment to remember Lonesome George at his prime. (The fun starts, thanks to Simon Reeve of the BBCtwo minutes into the video.)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.