The Pyrenean ibex is famous — practically celebrity-status. Do you know what for? It’s the first animal to ever hold de-extinction status. In other words, its existence was brought back into the world after complete extinction!
I’m sure your next question is, “How on earth…?”
Well, it took a combination of liquid nitrogen-frozen cells, a Spanish laboratory, and a team of scientists to make this magic happen. You may have guessed it — this remarkable phenomenon is the result of cloning.
However, not all miracles maintain a happy ending. After only a few short breaths, the newborn calf died due to lung defects.
Still, this was a shift in the world of cloning as scientists knew it. The experience encouraged the continued collection of tissue and cell samples from extinct species — leaving the possibility for future cloning projects to ensue.
How did such a majestic creature get depleted from our planet?
The answer isn’t as straightforward as some might hope, but we have a pretty good inkling of what lead to the Pyrenean ibex’s extinction.
Oh, and you’re never going to believe how the very last [naturally born] ibex passed *insert eye-roll here*.
So, let’s take it from the start. What was the Pyrenean ibex all about? And how did we get here?
The Good Ol' Days
Life as a Pyrenean ibex was good. They had a functional routine, and they stuck to it.
Spring and summer was a time for meeting a mate and enjoying the views from the Cantabrian mountain tops. When conditions got too tough, the lower valleys welcomed the Pyrenean ibex with milder conditions and plenty of food.
They weren’t a lonely species, as they tended to congregate in groups of 10-20. The only exception was when it came time for the females to give birth, which they preferred to do solo.
The Pyrenean ibex was one of four subspecies to the Iberian ibex — the western Spanish, southeastern Spanish, and Portuguese ibex. Unfortunately, only two of these subspecies remain. The Portuguese ibex was first to be reported extinct in 1892.
During the 14th century, sightings of the Pyrenean Ibex were quite common. It wasn’t until the mid 19th century when its population took a turn for the worse.
The Pyrenean ibex was one of four subspecies to the Iberian ibex — the western Spanish, southeastern Spanish, and Portuguese ibex.
A Twist of Fate
By the year 1900, there were fewer than 100 Pyrenean ibexes left — and numbers didn’t improve from there. Only 10 years later, the count was less than 40.
When the 1980s came around, the Pyrenean Ibex count was estimated to be between *GASP* 6-14!
So now we’ll get into —
What happened to the last individual Pyrenean ibex to roam the planet?
This is where misfortune sets in.
The last [naturally born] Pyrenean ibex was named Celia — 13-year-old Celia was just going about her day when a tree fell onto her and crushed her skull!
A tree put this subspecies into official extinction. Not cool.
While it’s true that a tree was responsible for taking out the very last Pyrenean ibex, it’s not to blame for putting the animal into full extinction. After all, the population had been dropping for years before the tree stepped in.
Take a Look at the Evidence
Scientists don’t have a definite explanation of what caused the extinction — but here’s what we do know:
- People were known to hunt the Pyrenean ibex in earlier centuries
- Competition for food and other resources grew as new domestic and wild ungulates (hoofed animals) were introduced to their habitat
- It battled different diseases and infections
- The Pyrenean ibex was sensitive to climate changes
I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say — humans likely played a key role in the extinction of these magnificent subspecies.
We can’t go back in time to stop the actions that may have led to this animal’s disappearance from earth. What we can do, is continue to educate ourselves on extinct creatures, like the Pyrenean ibex, so we have the knowledge to take preventative measures going forward.
Every life on this planet is precious — let’s appreciate and protect them! Over and out.