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Giant Galapagos Tortoise Lonesome George Dies

Galapagos National Park(QUITO, Ecuador) -- The giant tortoise known as Lonesome George died on Sunday, according to officials at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador.

He was found Sunday morning in his pen by his longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, the park said in a statement.  Lonesome George was the last remaining tortoise of its kind and was estimated to be about 100 years old.

Lonesome George was found on Pinta Island in 1972, although Pinta tortoises were believed to be extinct.  In an attempt to keep the species alive, mates had been provided for Lonesome George, but all mating attempts failed.  

“The plight of Lonesome George provided a catalyst for an extraordinary effort by the government of Ecuador to restore not only tortoise populations throughout the archipelago but also improve the status of other endangered and threatened species,” according to the statement posted on the park’s website.

The tortoise continued to live at a breeding center on the island of Santa Cruz in Ecuador, and he became a symbol of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

The park said the cause of death will be investigated.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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