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Lonesome George, last of the Pinta Island tortoises, dies

By Bryony Jones, CNN
June 25, 2012 -- Updated 1908 GMT (0308 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Giant tortoise Lonesome George dies in Galapagos Islands
  • George was the last surviving member of the Pinta Island subspecies
  • He was more than 100 years old -- comparatively young for a giant tortoise
  • The cause of his death is under investigation

(CNN) -- Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island giant tortoise, has died at his home in the Galapagos Islands. Scientists believe he was more than 100 years old.

Staff at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador say George, the only remaining member of his subspecies (Chelonoidis abingdoni), was found dead by his long-term keeper, Fausto Llerena.

In a statement the national park said Llerena had been "unhappily surprised" to discover his charge "stretched out in the direction of his watering hole with no signs of life," on Sunday morning.

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A post-mortem examination will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death, as although he was old by human standards, Lonesome George was not considered old for a giant tortoise -- the animals can live to around 200 years of age.

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George became a symbol of the Galapagos Islands after he was found on Pinta Island by biologist Joseph Vagvolgyi in 1971.

His plight as the only known member of his subspecies led to a series of ill-fated attempts to provide him with a mate.

But despite the best efforts of conservationists -- and the presence of two female giant tortoises from a close subspecies sharing his enclosure at the