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.
Others are worried that George's death is just the beginning.
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.