When Lonesome George died in 2012, we lost the final Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, the species of Galapagos tortoise found on Pinta Island, a tiny triangle of land some 690 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

But there’s a glimmer of optimism that we can bring the species back from extinction, thanks to a team of scientists who will piece together a genetic puzzle from different tortoises — hybrid animals on nearby islands — that harbor Pinta tortoise DNA.

The researchers, from Yale University and Galápagos Conservancy, are certainly optimistic: After a few generations, 95 percent of the Pinta’s “lost genes” will be restored through a breeding program, they told the New York Times. This echoes a Yale University genetic analysis in 2012, which found that some nearby hybrids are likely the immediate children of a purebred C. abingdoni — itself probably a descendant of tortoises 19th century sailors chucked overboard — with another species.

This echoes a Yale University genetic analysis in 2012, which found that some nearby hybrids are likely the immediate children of a purebred C. abingdoni — itself probably a descendant of tortoises 19th century sailors chucked overboard — with another species.

What this plan has going for it is that human-dictated breeding is an awesomely powerful thing. We’ve taken the wolf and turned it into the chihuahua. Sure, that was over some tens of thousands of years; but aspects of canid domestication — the floppy ears, the wagging tails — has been replicated on a compressed timeline with Russian foxes.

Can we do the same with the Pinta tortoise? The last hurdle is getting tortoises to breed. It can take a little luck — Lonesome George was a notorious bachelor — but when it happens, it’s magic.