A primary concern in conservation is the extinction of species. Our work often leads us to ask: what should we do to save a species from extinction? The answer, or the search for answers, to this question spurs much of our research, our efforts. Yet, living as we are in the middle of an extinction spasm of the greatest import, we rarely ask the corollary: what should we do when a species does go extinct? In effect, when we fail to stave off an extinction? When a species passes on, should we just heave a collective gasp, drape a commiserative arm around our collective shoulders and move on to the next threatened species? Do we add another sample to the ever-growing database of extinct species for performing many-dimensional analyses of extinction that incrementally develop our knowledge of why species go extinct? Or should there be something more to it? For with the passing of a species, we also lose any connection we have once had with it.

… This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 19 September 2010. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Three cheetahs at Masai Mara, Kenya (Photo courtesy: Kalyan Varma)
The last cheetahs shot in India (Photograph courtesy: Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, Vol 47, 1948)