One hawaiian snail dies, but the conservation effort lives on hawaii magazine

Youʻre looking at the end of a species 🐚 George, the last snail of his kind (Achatinella apexfulva), died recently at 14 years old . While he might look plain, his passing has attracted international attention; symbolic of steep declines in Hawaiian snails and the rapid extinction of species around the world. George spent his last 10 years alone in captivity while scientists hoped they might find another to save the species. . His passing is a significant loss, but not unique. Tree snails once blanketed our forests, a key component of ecosystems and a cultural symbol (known as kāhuli in Hawaiian).

Kāhuli eat the fungus that grows on leaves. Despite their small size, they exemplify laulima—many hands working together—to help keep the forest healthy. . Today it’s estimated that over half of Hawaii’s 750+ land snail species have been lost, from introduced predators like rats, rosy wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea) and Jackson’s chameleons, and habitat destruction from introduced animals like pigs, goats and deer. . DLNR’s Snail Extinction Prevention Program and partners are still working hard to rescue vulnerable populations from unprotected areas, restore critically endangered populations in captivity, and reintroduce species to protected areas in the wild. Mahalo for the messages we’ve received ~ we appreciate your care for our species. . Photos: George, the last Achatinella apexfulva, and other species we’re working hard to save: Partulina mighelsiana, Achatinella livida, Achatinella byronii, Partulina proxima, DLNR/David Sischo . #jewelsoftheforest #kāhuli #snail #ripgeorge #extinction #endangeredspecies #saveoursnails #laulima #snailextinctionpreventionprogram #invasivespecies #georgethesnail #achatinellaapexfulva #partulinamighelsiana #achatinellalivida #achatinellabyronii #partulinaproxima #hawaiidlnr

“I’ve been completely shocked by the public outrage over [the death of another species], and I think it’s a good thing,” says David Sischo, coordinator of the Snail Extinction Prevention Program at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Sischo had known George since he was born in a captive breeding facility at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “People should be upset that this is happening. These [snails] are underdogs. People don’t often care about invertebrates … so it feels good that people care and this has gotten so much attention. The snails deserve it. They’re being erased from the landscape at a rate as if an asteroid has hit the Earth, and I think people should be moved to action by that.”

Becky Choquette, one of the keepers who has been rearing these snails, pulls on plastic gloves disinfected with 70 percent ethanol. She carefully lifts out one of the adult snails, measuring just 8 millimeters from the tip to the base of the shell. “They’re humble, not flashy,” she says, describing the land snails with undeniable affection. “They live quiet lives in the leaf litter, going about their snail business.”

Before the arrival of humans, the Hawaiian Islands were home to more than 750 species of land snails, or pupu kuahiwi—including just over 200 in the tree snail family—many of them endemic to each island. They have important ecological jobs in the forest: They function as decomposers, breaking down detritus, reducing the abundance of fungi on leaves and protecting native trees from diseases.

But, in the last two centuries, snail populations have been decimated by the destruction of native habitats, shell collecting by humans and predation from introduced species, including rats, Jackson’s chameleons and the rosy wolf snail ( Euglandina rosea), which was brought to Hawai‘i in 1955 to combat the giant African snail. The remaining 200 or so species of land snails that remain are extremely vulnerable.