Galapagos Islands turtles
With no offspring and no other known members of his sub-species, he became famous as the world’s rarest creature.
His plight had led to a series of ill-fated attempts to provide him with a mate, with environmentalists trying to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar sub-species.
He lived for 15 years at a breeding centre on the archipelago’s island of Santa Cruz and got on famously with two females from the Wolf Volcano, but the eggs they produced were infertile.
Two females from Spanish Island’s tortoise colony, thought to be even closer to him in genetic make-up, were placed with him last year, but again it proved fruitless.
'Came to an end': The body of Lonesome George, believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies, is carried away
Disappeared species: The tortoise had become an ambassador of sorts for the islands off Ecuador's coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution
Mating methods are particularly sensitive for giant tortoises, with some males weighing up to 60 stone having to be careful not to crush the female. Five-foot long George weighed in at a much lighter 14 stone.
At 100, he was still classed as a young adult – some tortoises can reckon on living up to 200. He had been expected to live on a few more decades at least. Officials at the Galapagos National Park will hold a post-mortem to find the cause of death.
His longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, found him dead in his corral. Park chief Edwin Naula said in a statement: ‘His body was motionless. His life cycle came to an end.’
Officials said his body would probably be embalmed to conserve him for future generations.
When Lonesome George was discovered by a Hungarian scientist in 1971, biologists had believed his sub-species – Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni – had become extinct.
Once plentiful on the Galapagos Islands, the giant tortoise population was decimated after the arrival of humans. They were hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction.
A recovery programme run by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has increased the overall population from 3, 000 in 1974 to 20, 000 now.