known individual of the species. In his last years, he was known as the rarest creature in the world. George serves as an important symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos Islands and throughout the world.
George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 November 1971 by Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi. The island's vegetation had been devastated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous C. abingdoniipopulation had been reduced to a single individual. It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where he spent his life under the care of Fausto Llerena, whom the tortoise breeding center is named after.
It was hoped that more Pinta tortoises would be found, either on Pinta or in one of the world’s zoos, similar to the discovery of the Española male in San Diego. George was then penned with two females of a different subspecies. Although eggs were produced, none hatched. Unfortunately, no other Pinta tortoises were found. The Pinta tortoise was pronounced functionally extinct as George was in captivity.
Over the decades, all attempts at mating Lonesome George had been unsuccessful, due to the lack of females of his own species. This prompted researchers at the Darwin Station to offer a $10,000 reward for a suitable mate.
Until January 2011, George was penned with two females of the species Chelonoidis becki (from the Wolf Volcano region of Isabela Island), in the hope his genotype would be retained in any resulting progeny. This species was then thought to be genetically closest to George's; however, any potential offspring would have been intergrades, not purebreds of the Pinta species.
In July 2008, George mated with one of his female companions. Thirteen eggs were collected and placed in incubators. On 11 November 2008, the Charles Darwin Foundationreported 80% of the eggs showed weight loss characteristic of being inviable.By December 2008, the remaining eggs had failed to hatch and x-rays showed they were inviable.
On 23 July 2009, exactly one year after announcing George had mated, the Galápagos National Park announced one of George's female companions had laid a second clutch of five eggs.The park authority expressed its hope for the second clutch of eggs, which it said were in perfect condition. The eggs were moved to an incubator, but on 16 December, it was announced the incubation period had ended and the eggs were inviable (as was a third batch of six eggs laid by the other female).
In November 1999, scientists reported Lonesome George was "very closely related to tortoises" from Española Island (C. hoodensis) and San Cristóbal Island (C. chathamensis). On 20 January 2011, two individual C. hoodensis female partners were imported to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where George lived.