Sharing a planet has turned out to be more difficult than we, as a species, could have anticipated. Sure, we don’t want to have any problems with our animal neighbors, but the changes humanity has made to the environment, deliberate or otherwise, have made it impossible for some animals to survive, leading to their extinction. Here’s ten animals that have sadly gone the way of the dodo in the last century.
California Grizzly Bear, 1924
The state symbol of California, the California Grizzly Bear differentiated itself from other grizzlies by size, reaching standing heights of eight feet and weights of up to two thousand pounds. When European immigrants started settling in California, it was believed that there were around 10,000 California Grizzly Bears in the state. With the discovery of gold in California, and the ensuing population boom, the Grizzly did not fare well- the late 1800s saw settlers shooting and poisoning the bears to protect their livestock. The last confirmed California Grizzly Bear was shot in August 1922. Two years later a grizzly bear believed to be a California Grizzly was seen by several people in Sequoia National Park, but was not seen since, leading to it being declared extinct.
Newfoundland Wolf, 1930
Wolves are believed to have made it to Newfoundland during the last ice age, where they traveled over the ice from Labrador, where they then settled in. The wolf population caused a problem for the people moving to Newfoundland in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, since wolves were seen as dangerous animals that would kill settlers’ livestock, and thus, their livelihood. A prevalent theory is that the Newfoundland Wolf was hunted to extinction, since farmers did kill wolves, and there was a bounty issued on wolves as late as 1916 (though the last time it had been paid was in 1896). However, new studies suggest that the main factor in the Newfoundland Wolf’s demise was the declining Newfoundland Caribou population, and the wolves’ main food source. This combination of stressors would have made it difficult for the wolves to reproduce, and by the nineteen twenties, it is believed that there were less than fifty Newfoundland Wolves in the province and the species was declared extinct in 1930.
Tasmanian Tiger, 1936
The Tasmanian tiger had more in common with the kangaroo than the tiger, but it also had stripes, so people went with the visual cues when it came to naming it. The Tasmanian Tiger was a marsupial animal that went extinct on mainland Australia over a thousand years ago, but survived until more modern times on the island of Tasmania. It had a pouch to carry its young, and was, according to accounts, a nocturnal hunter who fed mainly on birds and small animals, like possums, though it started to eat sheep and poultry after European colonization of Tasmania. On Australia, it’s thought that competition with the Dingo helped it along to extinction. In Tasmania, the introduction of dogs is felt to have been a factor in their ultimate extinction, though their persecution as nuisance animals by humans is felt to have played a larger role. The last confirmed sighting of a Tasmanian Tiger was in 1933, where it was captured and kept at Hobart Zoo until its death in 1936. There have been sightings since then, but numerous organized searches have not provided any evidence to overturn the ‘extinct’ verdict.
Bali Tiger, 1940s
There isn’t a definitive extinction date for the Bali Tiger. The last time was one definitively seen was in 1937, at Sumbar Kima in west Bali, where it had been shot. These tigers were related to the Javanese Tiger (also extinct), but were smaller (closer to a cougar in size than to other tigers) and a darker orange. The Bali Barat National Park was established in tiger habitat in1941, but this had no visible effect on the population (which was unknown and possibly extinct already by that time ). Conservationists believe that the Bali Tiger went extinct between 1937 and 1950, and that a combination of hunting and loss of habitat caused the tigers’ extinction.
Guam Flying Fox, 1968
The Guam Flying Fox was a large bat with a wingspan of about seventy centimeters. It was a vegetarian, eating the fruit, flowers and foliage of the forests of northern Guam. Little is known about its behavior or reproductive habits, since it died out before much study into it could be down. The bat was used locally as a food source, and this, combined with the introduction of the predatory brown tree snake to the environment is believed to have contributed to its extinction. Only three specimen of this animal were collected, with the last being shot by hunters in 1968. Despite extensive studies into the fruit bats of Guam since the sixties, no other Guam Flying Foxes were discovered, leading to it being declared extinct.
Cuban Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, 1990
The Cuban Ivory-Billed Woodpecker’s population was already in decline by the 1940s, when ornithologists began to fear the animals were doomed to extinction. In the forties, the largest group of the birds known of was a group of six, and it was thought that the growth of the forestry industry had greatly reduced the species’ numbers, driving the survivors to more remote regions. In the fifties, there was an effort to get a conservation plan underway, but political turmoil (namely, 1959’s Cuban Revolution) pushed such plans to the back burner. While there have been reports of hearing bird calls as late as 1998 in the Sierra Maestra, the ensuing search turned up neither proof of the bird’s survival nor a potential habitat for them. The last sighting of the Cuban Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was in 1987, and it is assumed to have died out around 1990. The Cuban Ivory-Billed Woodpecker’s American cousin, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is on the cusp of extinction as well, since there are very few forests that match its habitat.
Jamaican Giant Galliwasp , 1996
They can’t all be cute. The Jamaican Giant Galliwasp’s genus, the celestus lizards, are common to the Caribbean, with cousins and second cousins being found throughout the area. But the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp, or Sinking Galliwasp is no longer among them. Native only to the island of Jamaica, it was first entered into the scientific family in the early 1800s. The last record of their population was in 1840, the World Conservation Monitoring Center classified them as extinct in 1996, after a search in 1994 found nothing. Little is known about the animals, so it’s difficult to say what exactly caused their extinction, but a prevalent belief is that the introduction of a predatory species- the mongoose- to Jamaica played a major factor in their extinction.
Zanzibar Leopard, 1996
The exact state of the Zanzibar Leopard is unknown. There hasn’t been a live one seen since 1996, and environmentalists feel that if it does still survive, it’s in a similar state to the Baiji Dolphin: doomed to extinction. The leopard was native to Unguja Island, and is believed to have evolved in isolation from its mainland counterparts. The Zanzibar leopard was seen as a predator dangerous to livestock, as well as being linked in superstition to witches and witchcraft, which lead to it being hunted down, with kills being reported yearly on the National Hunters’ records from 1985 to 1995. The nineties saw an interest in conservation for the population, and a program was developed by the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project, but it was abandoned in 1997 when researches were unable to find any evidence of surviving Zanzibar Leopards. The leopard is possibly extinct, if not is titled ‘Critically Endangered’
The Baiji is a river dolphin found in China’s river systems, mainly that of the Yangtze River. It grew up to eight feet in length, and could weigh up to 510 pounds. It had better eyesight than many other species of freshwater dolphins. They tended to live in small groups that occasionally came together to make larger groups of up to sixteen dolphins. The Baiji’s population was decimated by a number of things, including: overfishing of the Baiji’s traditional food sources, interaction with the fishing industry (from becoming tangled in equipment to colliding with fishing boats), and the destruction of their natural habitat, as tributaries were dammed, and others drained for land reclamation, leaving less room for the Baiji. The Baiji’s considered ‘functionally extinct’ by the Baiji Foundation in December 2006, after an expedition attempting to find any turned up with nothing. Functionally extinct means that, while there may still be a handful of surviving Baiji dolphins, there is no chance for their re-population.
Pyrenean Ibex, 2000 & 2009
Most species don’t get the chance to go extinct twice. The Pyrenean Ibex’s extinction is something of a mystery, with possible causes ranging from an inability to compete with other species for food to climactic conditions. Whatever the cause, the extinction of the ibex caused great ire amongst Spanish conservationists, who felt that the government had not acted fast enough to save it, citing that a conservation plan was not put into place until 1993, when there were only an estimated ten surviving Pyrenean Ibexes. It was declared extinct in 2000, but scientists had harvested samples from Celia, the last Pyrenean Ibex, shortly before her death, which were frozen in liquid nitrogen. Using DNA from these samples, scientists were able to clone a female Pyrenean Ibex in 2009. However, the freshly cloned ibex died shortly after birth, due to lung defects. But scientists remain hopeful that as our knowledge and technology advances, so too will our ability to restore extinct and endangered animal populations.
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