Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) — who was around 100 years of age — passed away on Sunday in his enclosure in the Galapagos Islands.
The giant tortoise had been through a lot of adversities in his long life, most of which were caused by humans. In the 19th century, whalers and seal hunters nearly wiped out George’s large and easy-to-catch species for food. More recently, goats were introduced to the Pinta Island and caused massive destruction of his habitat.
Humans tried to make amends by bringing George to the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador, where he spent the last 40 years of his life. But, as much as humans tried, George repeatedly refused to procreate and therefore his death represents the extinction of an entire ancient subspecies, believed to date back some 10 million years.
In the same week as George’s death, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released the latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species. Of the 63,837 species assessed, 19,817 of them are threatened with extinction. This list is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.