By Alison Fox
Updated February 19, 2020

There may be hope for a Galápagos tortoise that was thought to be extinct, as experts discovered a young tortoise that is partially related to the subspecies, according to reports.

The tortoise subspecies, Chelonoidis abingdonii, was believed to have died out in 2012, when the last animal of its kind — called Lonesome George — passed away, NBC News reported. At the time, Lonesome George was reportedly more than 100 years old.

However, researchers at Galapagos Conservancy Inc., a Virginia-based nonprofit, recently discovered a young female tortoise that they believe is partially related to Lonesome George and a direct descendent of the species, the network reported. The animal was found during a 10-day expedition to the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island.

Lonesome George, the male Pinta Island tortoise
Lonesome George is a male Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii)
| Credit: COLLART Hervé/Sygma via Getty Images

“We are absolutely thrilled that she was found,” Johannah Barry, president of the Galapagos Conservancy, told NBC News. “This is very good news.”

Pinta Island, home of Lonesome George, was once thought to have an abundance of large tortoises, but experts claim they went extinct in the early 20th century due to overhunting by humans, Smithsonian Magazine reported. When a snail biologist discovered Lonesome George in 1971, he was said to be the last of his subspecies and was brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos.

Lonesome George – not so lonesome anymore — lived with two potential mates, but the 13 eggs they produced were infertile, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Following his death from natural causes (considered young for his subspecies), Lonesome George’s taxidermy body was put on display at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Lonesome George isn’t the only giant tortoise that researchers have worked with to repopulate a species. In January, a giant tortoise named Diego retired after spending years helping to bring back his species from 15 surviving tortoises to more than 2,000.