Monday, February 15, 2010

In Memoriam: John Thorbjarnarson

We are sad to report that John Thorbjarnarson passed away yesterday morning. John was a Conservation Officer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in Gainesville, Florida. He was a PhD student of Wayne King and then spent the next nineteen years leading in situ conservation efforts of reptiles for WCS. He was a noted expert on the conservation biology of crocodiles worldwide --- having led efforts in the recovery of both Orinoco crocodiles in Venezuela and Chinese alligators in Anhui, China. He is also well know for his long term efforts focused on capacity building and conservation of crocodiles in Cuba and Black caiman in Brazil. John was in India to give a course at the Wildlife Institute when he succumbed to a severe case of falciparum malaria. He will be sadly missed by his colleagues and friends who will always remember his dedication to learning more about crocs and other herps and doing everything he could to protect them.

The photo came from this website, which has a nice interview with John about his work.

You may also see John in action in the Amazon in this National Geographic clip.

9 comments:

Glor said...

Sad news. Did he contract the malaria in India? Is it common for facilparum malaria to be fatal even when treated?

Susan Perkins said...

Apparently he contracted the malaria in Uganda a couple of weeks before. My guess is that it had gone cerebral and there was not much that could be done by then. Yes, the mortality rate can be in the neighborhood of 10-20%, even with treatment.

Glor said...

To what degree is treatment regionally optimized? I remember Laurie Vitt saying that the best thing to do if you're diagnosed with malaria in the US after returning from a trip to Brazil was to immediately return to Brazil for the appropriate treatment. From this map it looks like falciparum is fairly widespread in India, but would the same treatments be effective in both India and Uganda, or are patterns of resistance to treatment likely to vary regionally?

Susan Perkins said...

It's true that each region usually has a good sense of what drugs work best in that area - and which the parasites have evolved resistance to. If this case was definitely cerebral, though, there's not much that can be done if it doesn't happen quickly.

Glor said...

Reports (1, 2) elsewhere suggest that his illness was sudden and irreversible, in spite of the best care possible. What a tragedy.

Yoamel said...

Actually, there are no words to express the meaning of John T (or Juan Caiman as everybody call him in Cuba) for everyone that had the honor to meet him in person. I would like to remember him always smiling, with a great sense of humor and in full collaboration with the crocodile’s projects everywhere.

Rob said...

I was also sad to learn this. I met John once (don't remember the exact year) when he was a grad student at UF (I had done some volunteer work there), and remember having a thoroughly fascinating conversation with him.

Studying parasites now, I can say that Plasmodium falciparum is indeed the most vicious of human malarias, and can be fatal quite quickly.

John's efforts in herpetological conservation will be missed.

Gus said...

It´s going to be a year now, since John T (aka Juan Caiman) is no longer with us. I worked and lived with with him in the "llanos" for a number of years. I miss him, personally, and his brave efforts in pro of the conservation worldwide. He was truly, a man with convictions, a determined person in these uncertain times. The Orinoco crocodile lost one of his champions, and I lost a dear friend.

Juan Caiman, nos vemos pronto

Gustavo

Gus said...

It´s going to be a year now, since John T (aka Juan Caiman) is no longer with us. I worked and lived with with him in the "llanos" for a number of years. I miss him, personally, and his brave efforts in pro of the conservation worldwide. He was truly, a man with convictions, a determined person in these uncertain times. The Orinoco crocodile lost one of his champions, and I lost a dear friend.

Juan Caiman, nos vemos pronto

Gustavo