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Lonesome George, Galapagos conservation icon, dies

The giant tortoise Lonesome George was the last of his kind.

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Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island Tortoise, pictured at Galapagos National Park's breeding center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island in March 2009. He has been found dead at the age of 100. (RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The last of the giant Galapagos tortoises, Lonesome George, has died in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands.

Reuters reports that his death was confirmed by the head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula, after he was found on Santa Cruz Island.

"This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George.  His body was motionless," Naula is quoted as saying.

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Park officials were to carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death, the BBC says.  Lonesome George was estimated to be about 100, which made him a young adult.  His subspecies, Geochelone abigdoni, can live up to an age of 200, the news service explains.

Lonesome George was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when tortoises of his type were already believed to be extinct, according to AFP.  Since then, the animal had been part of the park service's tortoise program, but repeated efforts to breed Lonesome George failed.

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The Galapagos National Park is considering embalming George's body so that it can be displayed in the park, according to The Telegraph.

Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/120624/ecuador-lonesome-george-galapagos-conservation-icon-dies