26 June 2012

This is what extinction looks like

Lonesome George has died. The last of his subspecies of giant Galápagos tortoise, he was thought to be about a hundred years old. I met him in September last year; by then his subspecies had long been doomed to extinction, but his death two days ago (24 June) saddens me nevertheless.

[7 September 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 400, 1/200 at f8]

All content © 2012 Pete McGregor


Relatively Retiring said...

I'm so glad that you and Lonesome George managed to meet, and even more glad that he posed for you in this poignant way with such a touching result.
RIP George.

butuki said...

That has got to be one of the most beautiful images you have ever taken, Pete. And the news makes it infinitely sadder.

robin andrea said...

It is heartbreaking to see the face, those eyes, that solitary life of that last one. A sad farewell to Lonesome George.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful portrait of Lonesome George. Makes me sad too. Maureen

Anne-Marie said...

Even though his species was already doomed, it is sad to learn of his death. I'm glad you got to meet him. This has to be the best photo I've seen of him - what an unforgettable face!

pohanginapete said...

Thank you, RR. I saw a great many giant tortoises on the Galápagos, but he was special.

Miguel, thank you. I wonder how many other Lonesome Georges of other species still survive, living out the last of their days utterly unknown to us? Too many, I suspect.

Robin, heartbreaking's an apt word. Meanwhile, many of our so-called leaders didn't even bother turning up to Rio+20. They had much more important things to attend to, apparently.

Maureen, anyone who saw him, understood his situation, and wasn't saddened, must surely have no soul.

Thank you, Anne-Marie. I was lucky I got to see him, particularly because I'd never thought I could have afforded a visit to the Galápagos. But E & L won't ever have that chance — and how many other animals will they never get to see?

Zhoen said...

All things end, but they shouldn't be ended. Life isn't fair, but we should strive to be.

pohanginapete said...

Zhoen, very well put. I wish more of us would act on that philosophy.

Me from Cali said...

It lived for about one hundred years. I’m almost two thirds that age. What did this creature do all of its life? It meandered around, ate, excreted, etc. I have to wonder if I‘m not all that different even though I’m a ‘higher thinking organism’ (supposedly some times, anyway). But really, in the eyes and plan of God (for the sake of using something/someone as a benchmark) what is my purpose and is it really any more so useful or valid in the eternal perspective than ol’ Lonesome George’s? In the final analysis we are *all* going to be spending a lot more time dead than alive.

Just my thoughts.

RIP Lonesome George.

pohanginapete said...

Paul, if I had "the" answers to those questions I'd have millions of followers camped outside, reading meaning into everything I did — every time I scratched myself someone would interpret it in some meaningful way and the valley would be filled with the sound of a million armpits being scratched.

I think Heidegger said something about our purpose being to discover (or possibly create) our purpose. Apparently he was a "higher thinking organism" too, but the few occasions on which I've tried to read his writing, I've felt on the intellectual level of a tortoise. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.