Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published on July 11, 2013. Enjoy!
Mankind has the honor of quite possibly being the most destructive force to ever hit Mother Nature. With 150 to 200 species of life ceasing to exist every 24 hours, a mass extinction is looming, and biodiversity is in crisis.
Periods of extinction are nothing new in the planet’s history, but species extinction in the past 10 years is far greater than anything the world has experienced in the past 65 million years. Humankind’s unsustainable production and consumption are without a doubt the major contributing factor. For the first time since the disappearance of the dinosaurs, humans are driving both animal and plant species to extinction faster than new ones can evolve.
Although we can’t honor them all, here’s a glimpse at just some of the beautiful creatures that we’ve lost forever in the last decade:
West African Black Rhinoceros
Officially declared extinct in 2011, the majestic West African Black Rhino was a victim of rampant poaching. Hunted for its horn, which is believed by some in China and Yemen to possess aphrodisiacal qualities, conservationists searched for signs of its last remaining habitat in Cameroon in 2006, but were unable to find any traces. The West African Black Rhino was one of four subspecies of rhinoceros. The other three remaining subspecies are all critically endangered.
Caribbean Monk Seal
Even though nobody has sighted a Caribbean Monk Seal since 1952, it wasn’t until 2008 that this impressive creature was declared extinct. Hunted extensively for its blubber for use in oil lamps and machinery in the 1700s and 1800s, the Caribbean Monk Seal was an unaggressive and curious animal. Early habitat destruction and human hunting was likely to blame for their demise, as these once abundant seals were regarded as ‘competitors’ by fisherman.
Po’ouli / Black-faced Honeycreeper
Native to Hawaii, the Po’ouli or Black-faced Honeycreeper was only discovered in the 1970s at which point they were already on the decline. Efforts were made to get the remaining birds to breed, but attempts were unsuccessful, and the last one of its kind died in 2004. Changes to Hawaii’s ecosystem caused by non-native species, along with habitat loss and disease, are the main reasons why we have lost this unique bird.
Endemic to the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica, the Holdridge’s Toad was affirmed to be extinct in 2008. Last spotted in 1986, this fascinating creature’s decline and extinction has been attributed to the amphibious disease chytridiomycosis in collaboration with the effects of climate change.
With China’s industrialization and heavy use of the river for fishing, transportation and hydroelectricity in recent decades, the population of the Baiji Dolphin drastically declined. As the country developed economically, the Baiji Dolphin came up against more and more threats. In the 1970s and 1980s, half of all Baiji deaths were attributed to entanglement in fishing gear, and in 2006 they were declared ‘functionally’ extinct after a 2000 mile extensive expedition of their range that failed to record a single individual.
Madeiran Large White
Found in the breathtaking valleys of Portugal’s Madeira Islands, the Madeiran Large White butterfly became extinct in 2007. Pollution due to agricultural fertilizers and loss of habitat from new industrial development and construction are the primary causes for the disappearance of this beautiful butterfly. Its closest living relative is the Large White which is very common across Europe, Asia and Africa.
To this day only one photograph exists of the Alaotra Grebe in the wild, making it a very illusive animal indeed. Residing in Lake Alaotra in an isolated area of Madagascar, this small diving duck was declared extinct by scientists in 2010 after multiple thorough surveys carried out in the preceding decade failed to find any evidence of its existence. Predation by non-native carnivorous fish and habitat destruction are the most likely the cause of its extinction.
How do you feel about saying goodbye to these precious animals forever?
Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar