Ecuador: Saying Goodbye to Lonesome George

“Lonesome George,” from the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, was the last tortoise of his species. The tortoise was found dead on Sunday morning, June 24, 2012, in his yard at the Galápagos tortoise breeding center in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz.

George was the last tortoise of the Chelonoidis abingdonii species, and he was approximately 150 years old.  He died of natural causes, since his organs began to fail due to his old age, according to the results of the emblematic animal's autopsy.

Since he was the last of his species, many attempts were made to save him; however, as Vicente Tagle León (‏@vichetagle) [es] explains, these attempts were not fruitful:

‏@vichetagle: Hubo muchos intentos por hacer reproducir al ‪#solitariogeorge‬, pero ninguno funcionó. Hoy Galápagos y el mundo pierden a un símbolo!

@vichetagle: There were many attempts at getting ‪#solitariogeorge‬ [Lonesome George] to reproduce, but none worked. Today the Galápagos and the world lost a symbol!

From the moment that official sources from the Galápagos National Park confirmed the news, a series of mentions, farewells, and references to the tortoise began spreading on social networks like Facebook and Twitter as an homage to George.

Lonesome George, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Marco Chile, a Galápagos Island native, published [es] an editorial in honor of George on Facebook. Among other things, he says:

A más de uno en las islas y en el mundo entero nos ha llenado de tristeza enterarnos de la muerte de George, especialmente a quienes crecimos cerca de este quelonio que se convirtió en el ejemplo de lucha de una especie empujada a la extinción por la acción de las especies invasoras y la irresponsabilidad ó desconocimiento de los primeros colonizadores de las encantadas.

So many of us on the islands and throughout the world have been filled with sadness upon hearing about George's passing, especially those of us who grew up near this tortoise, which became the prime symbol of fighting in a species that was being pushed towards extinction by invading species and the irresponsibility or ignorance of the Enchanted Islands’ first colonizers.

On Twitter, hashtag ‪#solitariogeorge [es] quickly became a local trending topic in Ecuador.

The Tomebamba Voice (‏@tomebamba) [es], an Ecuadorian radio station, reported the following:

@tomebamba: La muerte del ‪#SolitarioGeorge‬ conmociona el ‪#ecuador‬ hay 70 tweets por segundo. /via @gustavomerino

@tomebamba: The death of #LonesomeGeorge has shaked #Ecuador‬.  There are 70 tweets per second. /via @gustavomerino

Andrés Ponce G. (@AndresPonce28) [es] remembers that George appeared in one of the old Ecuador currency bills:

@AndresPonce28: Había olvidado que el Solitario George aparecía en el billete de 5.000 sucres

@AndresPonce28: I had forgotten that Lonesome George appeared on the 5,000 sucre bill.

While Carla Villamarin (‏@carlitavu) [es] writes:

@carlitavu: El país está de luto:( ‪#SolitarioGeorge‬ RIP♥ siempre en nuestros corazones

@carlitavu: The country is in mourning :( RIP♥ #LonesomeGeorge‬, always in our hearts

On July 7, journalist Andrés L Morales A. (@AndYMoralesA) [es] shared a photo of a parade in memory of Lonesome George:

@AndYMoralesA: Marcha en recuerdo del ‪#solitariogeorge‬ en las calles de Pto Ayora ‪#galapagos‬

@AndYMoralesA: March in memory of ‪#solitariogeorge‬ on the streets of Puerto Ayora ‪#galapagos‬

The directors of the  Galápagos National Park decided to honor the tortoise by constructing an interpretation center [es] named Lonesome George. Additionally, the park put forth a campaign so that those who had the chance to know George could share photos of the tortoise.  An exhibit [es] of these photos took place on July 8.

On July 5, the Ministry of Heritage also began the process of declaring Lonesome George a part of Ecuador's cultural heritage.

With George's death, the number of land tortoises on the Galápagos decreases to 10. These tortoises are an endangered species, and George's death reminds us of the urgency to join forces for their preservation [es].

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