The last known member of his species, George the Hawaiian tree snail has died.
Before reading his story, I didn’t know George existed, but I know there are many critters in trouble. Extinctions are ramping up around the planet, but Hawaii, where so many species once sheltered from competition now face an influx of outsiders, is the extinction capital of the world.
I’m sad to lose George.
He was named after a more-famous last-of-his-kind animal – Lonesome George, a Galapagos tortoise, who died in 2012. I met Lonesome George long ago on a tour of the Galapagos Islands. I’m sad about him too.
There are other snails and other tortoises. If we were protecting habitats, it might not matter. Nature could recreate the Georges. But in too many places, we’re a destructive force.
Humans are part of nature. We don’t have to go away. To be pro-environment is not to be anti-human. We do have to change how we manage the land so all creatures have a home, and change is hard.
There may be another Achatinella apexfulva Hawaiian tree snail someplace on the island, but he/she (the snails were hermaphrodites) needs to be very lucky to survive.
Why am I sad? Who cares about snails and tortoises? And leopards, gorillas, sea turtles, orangutans, elephants, porpoises, tigers, rhinoceroses, the scaly pangolin, or the Asian Unicorn? Or anything with body parts used in folk medicine? Or… that’s the problem. Even if you don’t care about the rest of Creation, we’re impoverishing our own future.
There is hope. Wealthy individuals and non-profits set land aside as preserves. They buy from private parties, which is only fair.
Governments act. Without laws, a few individuals who may be selfish or desperate can destroy the world’s heritage.
It may even be possible to bring back recent extinctions with technology. But we don’t need cutting-edge genetics to save what we still have. We know what to do.