Photo: Pepe the Missionary
The giant tortoise “Pepe the Missionary”, a symbol of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, has died at an estimated 100 years of age, apparently due to overweight, Galapagos National Park announced.
The chelonian, which spent much of its life in captivity, died Friday at the park’s care center on San Cristobal Island, whose capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
A park official told Efe that the animal was looked after by veterinarians and received daily medication to shore up its health, especially for its overweight and high cholesterol.
At first it was believed that Pepe was between 60 and 70 years old, but an autopsy showed he was older than previously thought, the official said.
He said the chelonian belonged to a subspecies of which some 2,000 specimens remain, so that Pepe’s death does not endanger the species.
The animal was found by fishermen in 1940 and given to a family on San Cristobal, though in 1959, with the creation of Galapagos National Park, keeping giant tortoises as pets was banned.
Pepe was given to the Franciscan Mission on San Cristobal in 1967 and, with the permission of park authorities, remained with the friars until the year 2012, when, for health reasons, it was decided to move him to the park’s care center.
The tortoise’s death recalls the passing in 2012 of “Lonesome George,” the last survivor of the Pinta Island species “Chelonoidis abingdoni,” whose decease signified the subspecies’ extinction.
The Galapagos Islands, which lie in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of the Ecuadorian mainland, served as a natural laboratory that inspired English scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory about evolution, natural selection and the origin of species.