RIP, Lonesome George: The Last Known Hawaiian Land Snail Has Died
The tiny creature was called Lonesome George because he was the last of his kind. A single snail living alone in a special lab until New Year’s Day.
PHOTOS: Aaron K. Yoshino
The rare 14-year-old land snail known as Lonesome George had been living in a special lab run by the University of Hawai‘i since 1997.
The Achatinella apexfulva was the first of more than 750 species of land snails from the Hawaiian Islands described in western science, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Scientists said Lonesome George died on New Year’s Day. He was part of a July 2017 feature story in HONOLULU Magazine about efforts to preserve rare land snails from extinction.
The snails were once commonly found on O‘ahu in the Ko‘olau Range and often used for lei making when they were plentiful. Scientists say remaining land snails in Hawai‘i face threats of imminent extinction from invasive species and climate change.
Scientists have preserved a 2-millimeter snippet of George’s foot, collected in 2017 for research purposes, which could be used if snail cloning becomes feasible. Officials say the living tissue remains at San Diego’s Frozen Zoo.
The Snail Extinction Prevention Program, which is working to save them, is featured in the upcoming television documentary Forests for Life, which chronicles the vital importance of Hawai‘i’s native forests to life in Hawai‘i. The hourlong special debuts on KFVE-TV at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 with a repeat at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21.
VIDEO: DIANE LEE AND AARON YOSHINO