Recently Extinct Animals

The list of recently extinct animals hints at the fact that we are losing species at an alarming rate, and that is not a good new considering that the extinction of single species is known to put tremendous pressure on the ecosystem.
With environmentalists trying to spread awareness about conservation of species, everybody has become quite eager to know which all animals feature in the list of recently extinct species. The term 'recently' here is a vague term which may refer to the last decade, last century or, at times, even the recent geological past. If we take into consideration animals that have become extinct in the last 100 years, the list features as many as 40 species which we lost over the last century. While the list of animals extinct in the last 10 years is a bit short, the rate at which species are getting extinct of late has left the environmentalists worried.

Are Humans to be Blamed?

Deforestation, global warming, hunting (poaching), predation by other species, competition with other species, epidemic, etc., are some of the most prominent causes of species extinction that various wildlife organizations often cite. Among these, the causes of extinction which can be attributed to human activities are not just at the forefront, but have also increased by a significant amount with time. For instance, habitat destruction as a result of deforestation and global warming has been one of the major causes of animal extinction on the planet, and the species which have had to bear the brunt of the same include animals like the Cape Verde Giant Skink, Round Island Burrowing Boa, Tasmanian Wolf, etc. Similarly, species like the Bali Tiger and Javan Tiger native to Indonesia were brought to the verge of extinction by large-scale poaching for their skin which has a great demand in the international market. Other causes such as predation and competition with other species, as well as epidemics, have also triggered species extinction, but the impact of these causes has not been as grave as human related causes - like deforestation and poaching.

Recent Extinctions in Animal Kingdom

In 2009, the International Union for Conservation on Nature (IUCN) - the premier organization working for conservation of species - came up with a press statement stating that the "Wildlife crisis on the planet have become worse than economic crisis." The organization - which has been in the picture for quite sometime now - has an exhaustive database of the global conservation status of plant and animal species which is referred to as the IUCN Red List. A look at this list reveals that the damage caused to the biodiversity of our planet is much more severe than we can imagine, and the list of animals that we have lost in the last 100 years highlights this fact very well.

Species Geographical Range Year of Extinction* Cause of Extinction
Arabian Ostrich Arabian Peninsula 1966 Excessive hunting
Atitlan Grebe Guatemala 1989 Habitat loss
Bali Tiger Indonesia 1937 Excessive hunting
Bubal Hartebeest Africa 1923 Excessive hunting
Bushwren New Zealand 1972 Large-scale predation by mustelids
Canarian Black Oystercatcher Canary Islands, Spain 1994 Human encroachment/Habitat loss
Cape Verde Giant Skink Cape Verde Islands 1914 Habitat loss
Caribbean Monk Seal Caribbean Sea 1952 Excessive hunting
Carolina Parakeet United States of America 1918 Excessive hunting
Caspian Tiger Asia 1930s Excessive hunting/Loss of Habitat
Caucasian Wisent Europe 1927 Large-scale predation
Colombian Grebe Colombia 1977 Large-scale predation/Excessive hunting
Crescent Nail-tail Wallaby Australia 1927 Large-scale predation by Red fox
Golden Toad Monteverde 1989 Climate change/Fungal epidemic
Grand Cayman Thrush Grand Cayman 1938 Habitat loss/Excessive hunting/Predation
Guam Flying Fox Guam (US Territory) 1967 Habitat Loss/Predation by brown tree snakes
Hawai'i 'O'o Hawaii 1934 Excessive hunting
Heath Hen New England 1932 Excessive hunting for food
Japanese Sea Lion Japanese Archipelago 1974 Excessive hunting
Javan Tiger Indonesia 1972 Habitat loss/Excessive hunting
Kaua'i 'O'o Hawaii 1987 Avian diseases
Laughing Owl New Zealand 1914 Habitat loss/Predation by domestic cats
Laysan Rail Hawaii 1944 Habitat/Predation by rats
Little Swan Island Hutia Caribbean 1950s Predation by domestic cats
Palestinian Painted Frog Israel 1955 Habitat loss
Paradise Parrot Australia 1927 Habitat loss/Predation by domestic cats
Passenger Pigeon North America 1912 Excessive hunting for food
Pyrenean Ibex France and Spain 2000 Excessive hunting
Roque Chico de Salmor Giant Lizard Canary Islands, Spain 1930s Commercial exploitation in scientific research
Round Island Burrowing Boa Round Island, Mauritius 1975 Loss of habitat
Ryukyu Wood-pigeon Okinawa Archipelago, Japan 1936 Habitat loss
Santo Stefano Lizard Santo Stefano Island, Italy 1965 Large-scale predation/Endemic
Schomburgk's Deer Thailand 1930s Excessive hunting
South Island Piopio New Zealand 1963 Predation/Habitat loss
Syrian Wild Ass Asia 1927 Excessive hunting
Tasmanian Wolf Australia 1936 Excessive hunting/Habitat loss
Thicktail Chub California, United States 1950s Habitat loss/Competition with hybrid species
Toolache Wallaby Australia 1950s Excessive hunting/Predation by foxes/Habitat loss
Wake Island Rail Wake Island, Pacific Ocean 1945 Excessive hunting for food
*The year of extinction may refer to the last confirmed sighting of the species or the year in which it was officially declared extinct.

While many sources suggest that the Baiji River Dolphin has become extinct, the fact is that it has been declared Functionally Extinct as the search for this species in its native habitat didn't yield any positive results. Similarly, there exist some confusion about the extinction of Barbarian Lion which according to some sources does exist in captivity even today. Other animals which are believed to have become extinct, but the official confirmation is still awaited, include species like the Western Black Rhinoceros, Zanzibar Leopard, Madeiran Large White, Spix's Macaw, etc. These species are enlisted as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. Other prominent names which are often found in the lists of extinct animals include the Quagga, Dodo, Cape Lion, Falkland Island Wolf, Steller's Sea Cow, etc., which became extinct before the dawn of the 20th century.

In a given ecological system, extinction of one species can put tremendous pressure on the entire ecosystem. If an apex predator becomes extinct, the number of herbivores tends to increase and destroys the vegetation cover. Similarly, if pollinating agents become extinct, it acts as a trigger for the extinction of various flowering plant species. The domino effect of species extinction becomes all the more prominent when the extinction of one species - whether plant or animal - leads to extinction of another. What's even worse is the fact that we ourselves are sitting at the other end of this chain, which means that we are bound to face the heat sooner or later.
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 3/31/2011
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