Lonesome George passed away this morning after a long life of comforts in his Charles Darwin Research Center home, where scientists and world conservation leaders fought hard to continue the seed of his La Pinta subspecies. Extinction is hard to come by, never a pleasant affair, but the symbolic importance of Lonesome George’s passing will forever live on.
Galapagos cruise tourists will no longer be able to visit him, take pictures next to him, witness his ever-so-slow movements in the shallow ponds created to reproduce the environment of life in the wild. No matter how many species-related females he was coupled with in his “corral”, Lonesome George seemed uninterested, and was not able to give himself (and the many people who so vehemently followed him) a proud heir to his throne. Today, nothing seems to be left of his tortoise subspecies and that makes us sad.
There will always be those of us who think things happen for a reason. And Lonesome George’s passing will seem like a kind of premonition. Because as small an extinction as this may seem, we seem to understand the implications. Headlines all over the world have covered the life and death of Lonesome George, a single individual on a remote island in the smallest of archipelagos, and in the end, it all seems to remind us that some day we may be in the same situation. That is what makes the news relevant. For this reason alone, we will continue to honor Lonesome George in our plight to preserve the last individual of a dying breed. That will forever be the essence of our work and life on Earth.