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The Tragic Tale of the Pyrenean Ibex: The First Mammal to Go Extinct… twice!

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

#15 Science in History

06 January 2000

On this day in 2000, the Pyrenean ibex became the first mammal species to go extinct due to human influence.

The ram in the foreground was killed in the Val d'Arras

The medium-sized wild goat, also known as the bucardo, lived among the cliffs and rocky slopes of the Pyrenees Mountain range in Northern Spain. It faced numerous threats throughout its existence - habitat loss (through farming and development) and poaching being the main causes of its decline. Inbreeding and disease also caused a drop in the animals' numbers.

Efforts to conserve the Pyrenean ibex were made in the late 1900s, but they were unsuccessful. The last known individual of the subspecies, a 13-year-old female named Celia, was found injured in the mountains in 1999. She was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation centre but died later, and the Pyrenean ibex was officially declared extinct.

In 2009, scientists announced that they had successfully resurrected the ibex through a process known as ‘de-extinction’. DNA from the last known individual of the subspecies, Celia, was implanted into a domestic goat egg with its own DNA removed. The resulting embryo was then implanted into a surrogate mother goat, who gave birth to a cloned Pyrenean ibex.

Named Celia, after the last known individual, the clone lived for seven minutes before it died due to respiratory failure.

The Pyrenean ibex serves as a reminder of the consequences of human actions and the importance of conservation.


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