The quagga was once classified as an individual species, Equus Quagga, in 1788. Over the next 50 years or so, many other zebras were described by naturalists and explorers. Because of the great variation in coat patterns (no two zebras are alike), taxonomists were left with a great number of described “species” and no easy way to tell which of these were true species, which were subspecies, and which were simply natural variants.
The Thylacine: Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributory factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat. Despite being officially classified as extinct, sightings are still reported.
Formerly found near the Asiatic coast of the Bering Sea, it was discovered in 1741 by the naturalist Georg Steller, who was traveling with Vitus Bering. There are still reports of sea cow-like animals from the Bering Sea and Greenland, so it has been suggested that small populations of the animal may have survived to the present day. This remains unproven.
Spectacled Comorrant, Pallas’ Comorrant: also discovered in the Aleutian Islands by Georg Steller while exploring with Vitus Bering in 1741. The Spectacled Comorrant was extinct within about a century.
The Caspian tiger or Persian tiger was the westernmost subspecies of tiger found in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Caucasus, Tajiskistan, Turkmenistan, and Ubekistan until it apparently became extinct in the 1970s. Of all the tigers known to the world, the Caspian tiger was the third largest. There are still occasional claims of the Caspian tiger still being spotted.
One of Europe’s most famous extinct animals, the aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) were a very large type of cattle. The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorow Forest, Poland. The skull was later taken by the Swedish Army and is now the property of Livrustkammaren in Stockholm.
The Great Auk was the only species in the Pinguinus, flightless giant auks from the Atlantic, to survive until recent times, but is extinct today. It was also known as garefowl or penguin.
The dodo has been extinct since the mid to late 17th century. It is commonly used as the archetype of an extinct species because its extinction occurred during recorded human history and was directly attributable to human activity. The adjective phrase “as dead as a dodo” means undoubtedly and unquestionably dead.
Once believed extinct, the almiqui resurfaces in Cuba.
The golden mantled tree kangaroo was discovered in December 2005 by a team of Indonesian, Australian and U.S. Scientists in the Foya mountains of the Papua province. Currently, ten species are recognized in the group, nearly all of which are threatened by habitat loss or hunting. The golden mantled tree kangaroo is considered one of the most endangered of all the tree kangaroos, being extinct in most of its original range.
In the 1950s, the population was estimated at 6,000 animals, but declined rapidly in the subsequent five decades. Only a few hundred were left by 1970. Then the number dropped down to 400 by the 1980s and to 13 in 1997, when a full-fledged search was conducted. Now the most endangered cetacean, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Baiji was last sighted in August 2007.
The Kemp’s ridley is similar to the olive ridley and is critically endangered. It is the most endangered of all the sea turtles. Conservation efforts and the introduction of TEDs have seen the number of nesting females rise from an all-time low of a few hundred in the 1980s to around 1,000 now. The nesting population is still nowhere near the 100,000 seen on a single day less than 70 years ago. Shrimp trawling and pollution continue to cause problems.
Virtually half of all primate species are threatened by extinction. Although, humans are the only primates not dwindling in numbers, our actions, particularly the destruction of habitats, pose the major threat to all other primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas. In some areas, however, unregulated hunting of primates for commercial use poses an even greater threat than does habitat destruction.
The naturalist John James Audobon once reported a flock of passenger pigeons so numerous, it took three days for them to fly over. In 1900, a 14 year old boy shot the last wild passenger pigeon (boys will be boys). Fourteen years later, the last one in captivity died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her name was Martha.
The total population is about 300,000 and it has been suggested that they have declined in numbers as much as 34% in the last decade alone. Recent research has shown that since 1994, more than 24, 500 grey headed flying foxes have died from extreme heat events alone.
Even though hunting the African elephant is now forbidden, the demand for ivory is still great. The African elephant population diminished greatly in the 20th century. In the Chad area of central Africa, there were about 300,000 African elephants in 1970. By the year 2006, the number had dwindled to 10,000.
The Blue Whale is considered to be threatened because there are only about 250 mature animals left in the world. The whale was once the most popular target for poachers and is now protected by law.
The Golden lion tamarin resides in forests across the Atlantic coast and Brazil. This monkey species is critically endangered and is one of the most rarest species in the world. There are only about 1,000 left in the wild and 500 in reservations and zoos.
The Red Wolf is one of the rarest canids and most endangered animal species. It once reigned supreme in the wild of the Southeast of the U.S., but hunters and the spread of agriculture nearly resulted in the Red Wolf’s demise. It became a target for hunters because it posed a threat to farmers. There are reportedly only 50 red wolves left in the world.
The Giant panda mostly eats bamboo and honey and is one of the most endangered species on the planet. There are about 1,600 pandas living in the wild and some 160 living in zoos and natural reservations. Killing a panda was punishable by death in China until 1997, when the penalty was reduced to 20 years in prison.
Hawaiian crow, called Alala by the locals, can grow up to half a meter in size. There are only about 50 of them left in the world, which puts them on the most endangered bird species list.
The Mongolian hose dates back about 6000 years. This horse, known in Mongolia as the takhi, was discovered in 1881 by a Russian explorer named Przewalski, after whom the horse became known. By the end of the 1960s, the horse had become extinct in the wild, but thanks to breeding reserves in Europe, it was reintroduced to Mongolia in 1992. There are about 150 takhi in Mongolia that can be seen at the Khustai Nuruu Nature Reserve.
Surprisingly tame, they could be lured to humans with meat and then stabbed to death. Later, sheep farmers laid poison baits. The Warrah probably didn’t offer any real threatened to livestock and probably ate penguins and other ground nesting birds, their eggs, sea creatures, (some scavenged) and vegetation. The last Warrah was killed at Shallow Bay, in the Hill Cove Canyon, West Falkland in 1876.
The French established a settlement in 1642, by which time the Elephant Bird had become very rare. The last one probably died in 1649. By 1700, they were gone forever.
By the time Europeans discovered the islands in 1770, the giant moas had been hunted to extinction. Their official extinction date is given as 1773. Europeans did not learn of the moa’s existence until bones were discovered in the 1830s.
Prehistoric in appearance and intriguing in behavior, rhinos joined the ranks of the most critically endangered animals in the world in the late 20th century. The existence of this majestic creature is increasingly threatened due primarily to poaching and habitat loss.
Found only in the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo, bonobos were believed to be as many as 50,000. However, preliminary results from the first systematic survey of a known bonobo stronghold found more evidence of poachers than bonobos, indicating that there may be as few as 10,000 left in the wild.
The tiger, one of the most magnificent animals in the world, is also one of the most endangered species in the world. A cat of beauty, strength, and majesty, the tiger is master of all and subject to none except humans. Of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct within the last 60 years. There are less than 50 South China tigers left on this planet. Few and possibly none survive in the wild.
The ivory billed woodpecker is thought to have been extinct for over 60 years. Sightings have been reported from time to time, but random sightings of rare birds are notoriously unreliable.
The ferret population took a major hit when prairie dogs came under assault as agricultural pests during settlement of North America’s grasslands in the 1920s and ’30s. In 1979, scientists declared the black footed ferret extinct. But in 1981, a ranch dog turned up with a dead ferret in its mouth. The find eventually led scientists to a group of 129 animals living near Meeteetse, Wyoming.
The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment said in 2004 that polar bears would be extinct within 100 years. Some scientists believe that they could disappear within 25 years. The IUCN predicted a more conservative decline of 30% in the next 45 years.
The wolf became extinct in England in 1486, Scotland in 1743, and Ireland in 1770.
Today, the aye-aye is highly threatened by habitat loss (rain forest destruction) and hunting. In some areas, local people believe the aye-aye brings bad luck and will kill the animals whenever they encounter it.
The indri is the largest living lemur. Black and white in color, the indri is famous for its eerie wail that sounds a bit like the song of a humpback whale. The indri feeds on fruit and leaves in the canopy of the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. Today, the indri is endangered due to habitat loss.
In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was created and the bald eagle was one of the first to be listed for protection. By 1978, bald eagles were endangered in 43 of the lower 48 states and threatened in the other five.
Snow leopards have become endangered primarily through conflicts with humans. As farms expand into snow leopard habitat, livestock compete against wild prey for food. As the prey populations decline, leopards are forced to hunt livestock. This leads to the loss of leopards due to retribution hunting. There are approximately 4,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild.
The Bubal Hartebeest vanished from the Algerian Desert and Moroccan High Atlas Mountains due to hunting. One of the ironies of the Bubal Hartebeest disappearance was that, despite its desert habitat, it was very amenable to captivity for over 18 years. To a modern conservationist, this animal would have seemed like an ideal subject for a rescue breeding program,
but the chance was missed.
The exact year of extinction of the Cape Lion is unknown. Although it is said that the last Cape Lion seen in Cape Province was killed in 1858, the last of the subspecies was hunted down in Natal by one General Bisset in 1865.
Carolina parakeets’ extinction was the result of the rapid cultivation of North America. This affected the parakeet in two ways. Its favorite habitat was destroyed and the birds were relentlessly persecuted because their large flocks destroyed complete harvests of fruit farmers. They were considered a pest and large numbers were killed.
This Abington Island Tortoise is the very last of his subspecies and is named Lonesome George. George is now living at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz.
There are only about 200 Mexican wolves in the world. Most are part of a captive breeding program in 40 zoos and wildlife sanctuaries located in the United States and Mexico to prevent extinction of the subspecies. In March 1998, the first 11 Mexican wolves were reintroduced into the wild in the Apache National Forest in southeastern Arizona under a program to re-establish the subspecies to a portion of its historic range.
The Forest Owlet is inferred to be declining as a result of the loss of its deciduous forest habitat. This qualifies it as Critically Endangered. This little owl is endemic to central India and was known from four widely separated localities during the 19th century. It was then thought to be extinct for more than 100 years. In 1997, the owlet was rediscovered and only 25 individuals are currently known.
The Harlequin Frog’s decline began at Monteverde in 1988. This once common species was last seen in 1996 and is thought to be extinct in Costa Rica. Serious population crashes have also taken place in Panama, although it has been recorded there as recently as 2002.
Due to the elimination of Dingoes, caused by their aptness to hunt on livestock, there are few animals left outside of zoos. A considerable effort is being made to protect Dingoes in the wild and to re-establish this species.
Gulf sturgeon are endangered by dams, pollution, poaching, and habitat loss. The species is now protected against fishing.
Not seen since 1978, the red colobus monkey was declared extinct in 2000, the 1st simian to receive this distinction in 200 years, only to reemerge in 2002, to the shock and delight of anthropologists worldwide.
It is estimated that there are less than 5,500 African painted dogs remaining in the wild of southeastern countries of Africa. Though the African painted dog is believed to be a threat to livestock, the facts do not necessarily support this theory. However, the lack of facts has not stopped humans from killing them on sight.
The decline of the Humboldt penguin began in the mid 19th century when the intensive activity of guano collectors disturbed and damaged nesting areas. Guano, the excrement of animals such as birds and bats, is much sought after for fertilizer. Local protections for individual species and their habitats vary by country, but the birds are still killed and eaten or used for fishing bait.
Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered. Habitat loss and poaching are pushing them towards imminent extinction. Every minute, every day, an area equal to six football fields of Indonesian forest disappears.
A careful study of extinction rates so far, conservation measures underway, and climate & environmental change shows that at least 1,200 species of birds will be gone by 2100.
Remember, extinction is forever!