Rarest animal on Earth dies

Rarest animal on Earth dies

Lonesome George has passed away

Sad news from the Galapagos Islands as Lonesome George, the rarest animal in the world, has died.

Lonesome George was a very famous tortoise. He was a type of Galapagos Island tortoise, giant tortoises weighing up to 100 kilograms. Believed to be 100 years old, he was the last living member of the Pinta Island giant tortoises.

That makes his death particularly sad.  Although scientists tried to get Lonesome George to mate with other types of giant tortoise, they were never successful.

Now that Lonesome George has died, the Pinta Island tortoises are extinct.

Galapagos giant tortoises are only found on the islands that make up the Galapagos, just off the coast of Ecuador, South America. Each island has a different type - or subspecies - of giant tortoise.

Differences between the subspecies of tortoises on each island helped to inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

The Galapagos giant tortoise's problems began when sailors and settlers discovered the islands. The sailors hunted them for meat and oil. The settlers introduced goats, which ate the tortoise's food.

The population of tortoises shrunk from 250,000 to 3,000. Luckily, conservationists declared the Galapagos Islands a protected area and there are now 20,000 tortoises living in the wild.

Sadly, the protection came too late for Lonesome George and the Pinta Island tortoises.

To find out more about Galapagos giant tortoises, visit ARKive.

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