Tucked in a corner of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, next to fossils of long-gone gigantic sloths and knee-high horses, stands a newcomer to the extinction parade: Lonesome George, the last of his subspecies and a native of the Galápagos's Pinta Island. Until his death in 2012, the giant tortoise had stood as a global conservation icon for four decades. Now, preserved by a team of taxidermists and put on display at the museum until his January 4 return to his South American homeland, George still shares his message amid other vanished species—lonesome no more.

Year George was found by József Vágvölgyi, a Hungarian scientist studying snails

Weight, in pounds

Estimated age at death

Months to dry his shell

Years to complete taxidermy

Height of the mount, in feet

Photographs consulted to get George's regal pose just right