Monday, June 25, 2012

Lonesome George

I just got word that Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta tortoise, has died. You can read the full story here. I feel much sadder about his death than I had expected to. After all, we have been working on finding replacements for the Pinta tortoise. But the extinction is so final - after so many decades of work by so many people, it happened anyway. George died without leaving any offspring, and now the Pinta lineage is gone. I have always felt honored to work on George's island. Now I feel a responsibility, a burden, settling onto my shoulders that before was only abstract. Extinctions really are forever, and we must do all that we can to stop them. And all the effort that went into saving the Pinta tortoise makes it even scarier. Many species go extinct with little notice or there are too few resources to do anything to help them before it's too late. I hope George's death will be a lesson, that he will be an even greater and more powerful icon in death than he was in life. George on Pinta in 1972 (taken by Ole Hamann).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Video and news

Here's a link to a video that ESF's PR department put together from footage that we took of the field season last summer.

I'll be defending my MS thesis on the Pinta work in just a few short weeks. I've tremendously enjoyed the writing process (unlike any other time I've had to write something!). It's been so gratifying to see all of our hard work come together into these documents, these stories.

Amazingly, I get to go to the Galapagos again this summer. The Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park have been planning for a few years a "tortoise summit" in which to gather together scientists and managers who have knowledge or interests in the conservation of giant tortoises in the Galapagos to decide how to approach giant tortoise conservation in the next 10 years. I am very honored to be invited and excited to share what I have learned about how tortoises can be used as ecosystem restoration tools. I'm excited to go back, too, of course. Though it's not Pinta, the bustling harbor town of Puerto Ayora still has its little corner with giant tortoises, and I yearn to see them again.