"Lonesome George" to go on display in Galapagos

Quito, Jun 11 (EFE).- The body of the giant tortoise known as "Lonesome George," which died a year ago, is being embalmed in the United States, a process after which it will be returned to Ecuador to be exhibited in the Galapagos archipelago.

Jorge will thus become a "wake-up call to make people see what can happen to a species if we humans keep destroying our home, the natural world, without realizing what we're doing," Washington Tapia, director of applied research at Galapagos National Park, told Efe.

To display the embalmed body of the popular tortoise, the last of the Chelonoidis abingdoni species, endemic to Pinta Island, and which is believed to have been more than 100 years old when it died, an "Interpretation Center" will be built at the place it spent its las 40 years.

The idea is that "even dead it will serve as an interpretative and educational tool for the local population and visitors," Tapia said.

After Jorge's death on June 24, 2012, the body was preserved in freezers at 50 C below zero (58 F below zero) with very special care taken to keep its tissues from deteriorating.

In March it was flown to the United States (in perfect condition) and took three days to thaw, after which the embalming process was begun at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Tapia said.

The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.

Some 95 percent of the territory's 8,000 sq. kilometers (a little over 3,000 sq. miles) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.

The islands were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of the evolution of species.