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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From the News: Vale ‘Gump’, the last known Christmas Island Forest Skink

If the title of this article is unclear, I'll explain - it's an obituary.  Not just of an individual animal, a lizard known to her keepers as "Gump", but of the species that she represented.  Efforts to find a male and initiate a captive breeding program proved unsuccessful. With her passing, the Christmas Island Forest Skink is believed to be extinct... just months after the species was given formal protection.

The Christmas Island forest skink joins the quagga, the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, and the thylacine ("Tasmanian tiger") in the ranks of species which have gone extinct first in the wild, then in the zoo.  I've always liked to think of zoos using the ark analogy, that animals that are fading rapidly in the wild can be brought into captivity, bred back from the edge of extinction, and saved.  It worked for the red wolf.  It  worked for the California condor.  It didn't work for this skink.

Things might have been different if more of an effort was made to safeguard the skink before its numbers got so drastically low.  The sad fact, however, is that it was an animal that most people never even thought of existing, letting alone needing conservation, and it became remarkable to them only in extinction.

Gump, who died in May, was the last known member of her species. Director of National Parks/Supplied

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