Dr. Thomas Lovejoy died on 25th December – what a tragic Christmas for those close to him – and a sense of loss for all who knew him as a warm and caring human being, the opposite of arrogant, and a true giant in the conservation world. He was a scientist who brought an understanding and love of the natural world to millions. His editorials in the New York Times were very educational – and he wrote in such an engaging way. It was he who first drew the world’s attention to the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and he succeeded, working with other scientists, in bringing the need for protecting the Amazon Basin forest and its rich biodiversity high up in the conservation agenda. He changed WWF from a small NGO to the world organization it has become today.
He predicted that, with the rate of habitat destruction, we were destined to lose many species of plants and animals – and lived to see his prophesy come true as we moved into the sixth great extinction. And he was a mentor as well as friend to many students. I never spent much time with Tom but we both had close ties to the National Geographic Society – we were both Explorers in Residence and met on a number of occasions when we shared ideas and exchanged stories. He was someone who made a strong and lasting impression. His contributions to science and conservation will ensure him a lasting legacy. My condolences to his family and many friends. Tom, may you rest in peace and feel the loving thoughts of those whose lives you touched.