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Lonesome George’s tortoise relative discovered in Galapagos

Tortoise believed to be extinct found on Galapagos islands
WATCH: The Fernandina giant tortoise had not been seen in more than 110 years until researchers found a living adult female on Fernandina Island in the Galapagos.

Lonesome George’s lineage is lonesome no more.

The famous Galapagos Islands tortoise was thought to be the last of his kind. Turns out, he’s had some half-siblings crawling around this whole time.

When Lonesome George died in 2012, the conservationist community mourned the believed extinction of his Pinta Island species, the Chelonoidis abingdonii, made well-known by renowned evolutionary researcher Charles Darwin.

But researchers working near the wolf Volcano on Isabela Island say they’ve found 30 giant tortoises, partial descendants from two extinct species, including that of Lonesome George, The Guardian reports.

READ MORE: Diego the sex-crazed tortoise retires after saving his species

One of them they found has a direct line of descent from George’s species, while the remaining 29 are from the Chelonoidis niger of Floreana Island.

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Per galapagos.org, the species was believed to be extinct until George was discovered in 1971.

According to the 45-member expedition, pirates and whalers took tortoises from other islands and left them near Wolf volcano. The team then found hybrid tortoises.

Though George is gone, there are other tortoises working hard to keep their own ancestry alive.

24-pound tortoise found in central Edmonton
24-pound tortoise found in central Edmonton

One such example is Diego, an Espanola Island tortoise who recently retired from a very long, very sex-filled life.

The centenarian with the unstoppable libido has been released back into the wild after spending the last three decades as the stud in a breeding program that saved his species.

The Galapagos Conservancy says it’s closing that breeding program and allowing Diego to retire to the islands now that he has helped bring the Espanola Island tortoises back from the brink of extinction.Diego was one of only 15 surviving members of his species in 1976 when the Galapagos Conservancy introduced him to its breeding program.

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He joined two males and 12 females in the program and quickly became their sex god, cranking out hundreds of offspring at the Santa Cruz breeding facility over the course of 30 years.There are 2,000 Espanola Island tortoises alive today, Galapagos National Park director Jorge Carrion told the AFP.

—With files from Josh K. Elliott

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca