The modern age has brought with it numerous environmental concerns such as poaching, pollution, and global warming, all of which have driven some animal species to extinction. The term “extinction” is usually associated with prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs and mammoths. However, there are animals which have disappeared from the face of the earth as recently as the last decade.
1. Alajuela Toad
Also known as the Alajuela toad, the golden toad was once abundant in a small area in Costa Rica. The toad was declared extinct with the last sighting of an adult specimen being recorded in 1989. The toad’s range was small and restricted to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a game reserve situated near Costa Rica’s city of Monteverde. The toad’s total range occupied an area of less than three square miles. The exact cause behind the toad’s extinction is yet to be established. However, scientists believe that air pollution, loss of habitat, and the effects of global warming are the most probable causes.
2. Hawaiian Crow
The Hawaiian Crow is a type of crow which was native to Hawaii. The crow is regarded to be extinct in the wild, with the only surviving numbers being found in captivity. Fewer than 150 crows remain in the world today. The bird has been under legal protection in Hawaii since 1931, but even the protection had little effect in the crow’s dramatic decline. Inbreeding has been the main hindrance in attempts to breed the crow and subsequently reintroduce it to the wild. Avian malaria has been pointed out as the primary reason behind the crow’s extinction in the wild.
3. Pyrenean Ibex
The Pyrenean Ibex was a large Iberian wild goat which was endemic to the Pyrenees, from where it gets its name. The species which was originally plenty in Spain and France was established to be extinct in the 20th century with the last adult of the species dying in 2000. Many factors led to the extinction of the Pyrenean ibex including stiff competition for pasture and territory from wild ungulates. Scientists including cloning have conducted ambitious revival experiments of the Pyrenean Ibex. Cloning resulted in the birth of a kid in 2003 which later died.
4. Spix’s Macaw
The Spix’s macaw is a rare type of macaw and is the sole surviving species of the Cyanopsitta genus. The macaw was found in the forests of northeastern Brazil. The bird is among the tiniest of all macaws with adults weighing about 11 ounces. However, rampant deforestation destroyed the macaw’s habitat which led to the decline in the population of the Spix’s macaw. The bird is recognized as being extinct at least for its wild populations. The only surviving macaws live in captivity and are part of a revival program aimed at reintroducing the Spix’s macaw back to the wild.
5. Western Black Rhino
The Western Black Rhino was a large subspecies of the black rhino which inhabited western Africa. The rhino was once the most populous rhino subspecies in Africa, with the population in the wild being estimated to be over 0.8 million in the turn of the 20th century. However rampant poaching witnessed in the second half of the 20th century drove the population to plummet, and in 1995 there were an estimated 2,500 individuals in the wild. The insatiable demand for rhino horn in Asian markets fuelled the poaching of the western black rhino. About a decade later in 2006, the rhino was established to be extinct in the wild.
6. Spotted Green Pigeon
The spotted green pigeon was declared extinct in 2008 despite not being seen in the wild for more than a century. The surviving specimen is of a dead bird that is housed at Liverpool’s World Museum. Also known as the Liverpool pigeon, the bird is believed to have been native to islands in either the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. The exact reason behind the extinction of the pigeon is not known, but scientists believe that predation and over-hunting was a likely cause of the bird’s disappearance.
Also known as the black-faced honeycreeper, the poʻouli was a small passerine bird which was found in Hawaii’s island of Maui. The bird was discovered in the mid-20th century, but its population steadily decreased over the second half of the century. The bird was declared extinct in 2018 with the last sighting of the black-faced honeycreeper being recorded in 2004. Many factors are blamed for the extinction of the black-faced honeycreeper but the most probably caused by the decline in the bird’s primary food item, tree snails. Increased predation is also pointed out as a likely cause of the bird’s disappearance, as are mosquito-borne ailments.
The baiji was a species of freshwater dolphin which lived in China’s Yangtze River. The species was established as extinct with the last baiji being spotted in 2004. There were reports of sightings in subsequent years but extensive surveys done in the Yangtze River are yet to report of finding a baiji. The extinction of the baiji was notable as it was the first documented extinction of a species of river dolphin and the first of any large vertebrate animal since the disappearance of the Japanese sea lion in the mid-20th century.
9. Holdridge’s Toad
The Holdridge’s toad is a species of toad native to Costa Rica. The Holdridge’s toad was declared extinct in 1986 by the IUCN, but surveys conducted between 2008 and 2010 showed that few individuals were still in the wild. The toad’s decline was linked to infections caused by the chytrid fungus. The growth of the fungus is believed to have been encouraged by favorable conditions brought by global warming.
10. Alaotra Grebe
The Alaotra grebe was a small aquatic bird that was declared extinct in 2010. The bird was once endemic to Lake Alaotra (from which it gets its name) of Madagascar. The bird’s decline started in the 20th century after the introduction of the blotched snakehead which preyed on the bird. Destruction of habitat was another cause behind the bird’s disappearance. The last sighting of an Alaotra grebe in the wild was back in 1985, and only one photograph exists of the aquatic bird.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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