Ecuador said Thursday it would honor Lonesome George, a giant tortoise that was the last of his kind and died in the Galapagos last month, by listing him as part of the nation's cultural heritage.
George, the only remaining Pinta Island giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra abingdoni) and a celebrated symbol of conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands, died in June with no known offspring at an estimated age of 100.
Lonesome George is a symbol of the fight for the protection of a "fragile ecosystem where conservation is everyone's responsibility," Ecuador's vice minister tasked with heritage issues, Juan Carlos Coellar, said in a statement.
Researchers plan to examine Lonesome George's remains before embalming the animal and putting him on display at the Galapagos National Park.
There are about 20,000 giant tortoises left in the Galapagos, according to the park's website. They are believed to be able to live up to the age of 200.
The Galapagos Islands, situated about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off Ecuador's coast, are considered a haven for tortoises.
The Galapagos gained fame when Charles Darwin visited in 1835 to conduct landmark research that led to his revolutionary theories on evolution.
The archipelago has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978 for the rich plant and animal life found both on its land and in the surrounding sea.