IN HIS 100 years of life, George survived pirates, whalers and goats, which ate their way through his habitat. But he could not escape his destiny, which was to be the last of his subspecies, the Pinta Island tortoise. So when George was discovered stretched out in the direction of his watering hole on Sunday, Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni was no more.

Attempts to get George to breed produced two bursts of optimism, and headlines such as "Lonesome George's eggs are fertile!", except that none of them turned out to be viable and the sobriquet stuck.

But George does leave a legacy, an active breeding programme for the Galapagos's giant tortoises. Thanks to the formation of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos tortoises have a future.

With Lonesome George, they never knew what the problem of mating was. One researcher said he seemed to just run out of steam. That can be said of many a male. London, June 26