The first day of a new year is typically one of optimism and excitement for what is yet to come. However, for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, January 1st was a day of mourning and concern.
On January 1, 2019, a snail named George died.
George was not just any snail. He was the last known Achatinella apexfulva in the Hawaiian Islands. His death marks the likely extinction of the snail species.
George was 14-years-old when he died.
A statement was released by Hawaii's governor, David Y. Ige, and Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson, Suzanne D. Case.
"The remaining land snails in Hawaii face imminent extinction threats from invasive species and climate change."
David Sischo, the snail extinction prevention program coordinator at the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, also spoke out about George's death.
"We're witnessing complete extirpations at a rate that's pretty remarkable."
He went on to state that the death was very emotional for his staff.
"Our staff has broken down and cried in the field before. They're not going extinct tomorrow — it's happening now."
There are 752 identified snail species in the Hawaiian islands. Those species are broken into 10 families. Within those 10 families, 60-90 percent of the snail species are known to be extinct.
George's death has provoked sadness for people everywhere, not just in Hawaii.
@NatGeo My heart :(— Danielle McRae (@Danielle McRae)1546972185.0
Sad Lonely George the snail, the last of his kind, dies at 14 in Hawaii https://t.co/CM8x01MQfw— Elizabeth (@Elizabeth)1547054556.0
this shit still fuckin me up poor george the snail why his kind gotta go extinct like this shit just isnt right😔 re… https://t.co/kDwxRqqWf7— rybo (@rybo)1547041089.0
Awe, George the snail :-( >>> The last of a Hawaiian land snail species dies at age 14 https://t.co/a5evGFdkx3— Beach Cleaner Kristine in Kona (@Beach Cleaner Kristine in Kona)1547021881.0
@NatGeo https://t.co/2KSlKrIr3U— MossyBeee (@MossyBeee)1546979576.0
My heart is just broken for George the snail.— Queen Cait (@Queen Cait)1547007805.0
Others are worried that George's death is just the beginning.
@NatGeo The way we are going he won’t be the last species to go extinct 😔😢— A voice for animals (@A voice for animals)1546980218.0
@NatGeo RIP little cutie. Sorry humans ruined the world & your chance to find a mate♥️😭— 👑VOTE MV Miss Congeniality & Alt Star 1/8-1/19👑 (@👑VOTE MV Miss Congeniality & Alt Star 1/8-1/19👑)1546979144.0
Lonely George the snail, is a high profile example. Worldwide, insect populations are in decline. Climate change? P… https://t.co/HlgB4hw4zI— Day 19 of the Trump Shutdown (@Day 19 of the Trump Shutdown)1547046534.0
#climatechange - 'Voice of the forest': George the snail, last of his kind, dies at age 14 https://t.co/QnKBWlbl1q— Dr.Axel Röpke (@Dr.Axel Röpke)1547024320.0
In 2017, a two-millimeter sample of George's foot was collected. The living tissue is alive and frozen in a deep freeze container at San Diego's Frozen Zoo.