Gump was the last lizard of her kind when she died in 2014, and her demise should be ‘a scar on our conscience’

The last Christmas Island forest skink was named Gump. She lived in a spacious cage filled with rocks, soil, logs and a ready supply of fresh invertebrate food in the island’s national park. She wasn’t particularly active, but then again it’s impossible to know what goes on in the mind of a skink. Her namesake was Forrest Gump – they were both solitary individuals who, despite being mild and unassuming, experienced momentous events while remaining quite unaware of the exceptional courses their lives had taken.

The Christmas island forest skink (or whiptail skink) used to thrive on its island home, an Australian territory off the coast of Indonesia. In 1979, researchers documented that they were its most abundant skink. These lizards were, visually, fairly nondescript. Not too small, but by no means large, they averaged about 20cm (8in) in length, with a slim body covered in brown-yellow scales. They were practically the default image that comes to mind when you think “lizard”.

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