The EcoWorldly blog has an achingly sad article called 11 Extinct Animals That Have Been Photographed Alive:
The story of the Passenger Pigeon is one of the most tragic extinction stories in modern times. As recently as around 200 years ago they weren’t anywhere near extinction. In fact, they were actually the most common bird in North America, and some reports counted single flocks numbering in the billions.
During some migrations, the flocks flying overhead would stretch for over a mile and could take several hours to pass. It would have been impossible to imagine a North American skyline without them. Yet somehow the species went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world to extinction in only about 100 years. What happened?
They write too about the Tasmanian Tiger, the Quagga, and various other species that went extinct recently enough that we still have photos of individuals.
[Via : Chere (GenOneStudios) on Twitter.]
I’ve been reading The Awa Book of New Zealand Science. It’s a fascinating collection of essays by and about scientists in New Zealand, from the last couple of hundred years.
Values have utterly changed in the last couple of centuries. What did the scientists back in the late 1800s do when they identified that the ancient huia bird was on the brink of extinction? Well, they preserved them by killing them, as this editorial note explains (page 76):
While some birds were taken live, it was more common for birds to be shot and traded as skins. … It is astonishing today to read of [Buller’s] delight in shooting huia, but in the late nineteenth century this was accepted ornithological practice. Buller, like many other naturalists, believed that New Zealand’s endemic species were doomed, destined to be superceded by ‘superior’ exotic species. Collecting bird skins was, therefore, considered vital to the scientific description of the species, and to ensure specimens were available for display in museums in New Zealand and Europe.
Huia image from Wikimedia Commons.
Photos, drawings, skins — they’re all very well, but can’t we find ways to reduce these extinctions?
It’s not all bad news though: I was listening to a podcast recently from Radio New Zealand talking about successes ecologists are having with increasing the numbers of kaka birds.