By Wynne Parry
When a giant tortoise named Lonesome George died, his kind, the Pinta Island tortoises of the Galapagos, suffered the same fate as the unfortunate dodo bird: Both bird and tortoise were wiped off their island homes and into extinction.
But Lonesome George will be better preserved than any of the lone-gone dodos, which disappeared more than three centuries ago from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
More than a year after his death, Lonesome George's remains are now in Woodland Park, N.J., where a team of taxidermists is working to preserve his physical presence by making a mount from his skin, shell and other external parts. After Lonesome George's mount is complete, New York's American Museum of Natural History expects to display it before sending it back to the tortoise's native Galapagos. [See Photos of Lonesome George Being Preserved\
"I think there is a very powerful moment when you come face-to-face with a piece of taxidermy of an extinct species," said George Dante, a taxidermist and president of Wildlife Preservations, the company working on the Lonesome George mount. "It's not like flipping through a book or clicking online."
The missing dodo
Dante has restored specimens of other extinct species, including the passenger pigeon, the thylacine (a large, carnivorous marsupial that lived in Tasmania), the Carolina parakeet and others. But neither Dante nor any other taxidermist has ever worked on an original dodo specimen. More....