Surviving Relative of Lonesome George The Pinta Giant Tortoise Discovered

Lonesome George who died in 2012 and was previously thought to be the last world’s last Pinta Galapagos Giant Tortoise but a new discovery could mean there are more out there.

Lonesome George was considered to be the ‘endling’ of his species, the last Pinta Giant Galapagos Tortoise to exist. After his death in 2012, conservationists thought there was little hope of ever reviving the lost species but a new discovery has changed that.

Birds eye view of Floreana Island, Galapagos.
Photo by Tommy Hall

Staff from the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservancy have found a female tortoise on Wolf Volcano, Isabela Island that is believed to be a direct descendant of Lonesome George. The team also found 29 other tortoises that are believed to be related to the Floreana Giant Tortoise which was considered extinct until just a few years ago when researchers studied the genetics of another population that has been discovered.

Giant Tortoises, being a keystone species, are an instrumental part of the Galapagos landscape making their conservation of upmost importance. Particularly, for controlling plant growth because giant tortoises eat plants, trample plants, and disperse their seeds. That is why conservationists are working to hard to protect them. A previous successful breeding program reared 2,000 Española giant tortoises from just 14.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise. Photo Credit: Island Conservation

While news that the Pinta Giant Tortoise could be alive and redeemed from extinction is thrilling, there is still more research to be done. Species of Giant Tortoises thought to be extinct have been found before. In 2019, a Fernandian Giant Tortoise was found in the Galapagos after the species had not been seen in 114 years and was thought to be extinct. Showing just how elusive these animals can be among the dense Galapagos foliage, and bringing hope for future conservation of these amazing species.

Feature Photo: Lonesome George, credit: Wikipedia
Source: IFL Science

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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