An entire species went extinct yesterday. Lonesome George was the last known Pinta Island tortoise, one of eleven remaining Galapagos Island tortoise species. Until his discovery about forty years ago, scientists thought his species was already extinct. But then someone found George walking by himself on Pinta Island and brought him to the Charles Darwin Research Center on nearby Santa Cruz Island, where he would live out his days in captivity.
I got to see Lonesome George during my Galapagos visit almost five years ago. I remember him being shy, hiding behind bushes as I tried to take his picture. I may not have seen very much of George, but I sure remember him. I had a kind of look at what we've done feeling in my gut when I learned that he was the only one left. And unlike with extinct species, George was there in the flesh to show thousands of tourists each year how his species, which had existed for millions of years, was wiped out in a few hundred due to mankind's carelessness.
On the day I saw George, I wrote this:
He's believed to be between seventy and one hundred years old, and could still live another hundred years.
George will probably outlive us all, and will continue to show people the chilling result of our exploitation for generations to come.
George passed away yesterday. Perhaps he was older than the scientists thought, or maybe he had an unknown condition that killed him in his relative youth. But I think he may have just been too lonely to keep going.