lonesome george, the pinta island tortoise, has the “perfect” extinction story

THE LAST OF THE PINTA ISLAND TORTOISES died in 2012. Known as Lone­some George, his story is “the per­fect ex­tinc­tion story. It fea­tures a charis­matic char­acter with a rec­og­niz­able face, an ob­vious vil­lain, and the tire­less ef­forts of nat­u­ral­ists. The pop­u­la­tion of the Pinta Is­land tor­toise species was dec­i­mated by whalers hunting and eating them during the 19th cen­tury Zo­ol­o­gist József Vágvölgyi dis­cov­ered George in 1971 and brought him into cap­tivity. No other Pinta Is­land Tor­toises have since been found.

The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN) de­clared the species ex­tinct in the wild in 1996, while re­searchers at­tempted to breed George with other tor­toises to at least pre­serve his ge­netic ma­te­rial. But George died—of nat­ural causes—sparking news sto­ries about his life and legacy, which media out­lets con­tinue to cover to this day.

But George’s story is not a typ­ical story. Per­haps a better mascot of the ex­tinc­tion crisis is Plec­tostoma sciaphilum; a small snail called a mi­cro­jewel for its beau­tiful, in­tri­cate shell, that in­hab­ited a single lime­stone hill in Malaysia. During the 2000s, a ce­ment com­pany wiped the hill off the map for its valu­able re­sources, ren­dering the mi­cro­jewel snail extinct.”

The above was lifted from “All the Species De­clared Ex­tinct This Decade” by Ryan F. Man­del­baum for Giz­modo (De­cember 16, 2019). It’s a lengthy ar­ticle that lists and de­scribes hun­dreds of species that have gone ex­tinct in the past few years.

To read this ar­ticle in its en­tirety, click HERE.

Lone­some George, the last of the Pinta Is­land Tor­toises, has the per­fect ex­tinc­tion story that fea­tures a charis­matic char­acter, an ob­vious vil­lain, and the tire­less ef­forts of nat­u­ral­ists. Click To Tweet

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FEATURED IMAGE. The photo at the top of this page is of Lone­some George, the tor­toise, I found this photo of Lon­seomse George on the Amer­ican Mu­seum of Nat­ural His­tory web­site. This is the first para­graph in that ar­ticle. While the wiping out of many of species is caused by cli­mate change, the de­struc­tion of others is not.

 

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