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).
We are a group of scientists, managers, and conservation activists dedicated to restoring giant tortoises to Pinta Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Most contributions are from Elizabeth Hunter, a graduate student at SUNY-ESF.