From banning of ivory trade in some of the countries with the biggest markets for ivory, to a rise in the population of the tiger and giant panda species after years of constant decline, it has been a decade of big wins for the wildlife conservation community. However, it’s hard to celebrate these milestones while witnessing the mass extinction of wildlife species due to the accelerating global environmental crisis. For years, we’ve given the planet our worst and sadly, many animals couldn’t take it anymore. Today, we remember some of the creatures we said goodbye to in this decade.
1. Pinta island tortoise
The last known surving member of this species; El Solitario Jorge (Lonesome George), who spent the last of his days under care in Galapagos islands, died in June 2012. Native to Eucador’s Pinta island, this species was brought to the brink of extinction by mid 1900s due to hunting. The remaining population was wiped out after the introduction of goats to the island led to destruction of most of the vegetation. After George’s passing, the Pinta island tortoise was officially declared extinct in 2012.
2. West African Black Rhino
Before a poaching epidemic brought this iconic population to its knees, an estimated one million black rhinos of four subspecies roamed the Savvannah in Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, and South Sudan. After decades of overhunting, this range had shrunk to small regions in Cameroon where only 110 Western black rhinos survived and in Chad where 25 rhinos remained. 10 years later, the population in Chad had been wiped out and a countdown for the last 10 surviving members in Cameroon began. The last time anyone saw a West African Black rhino was in 2001. After a decade with no sighting, they were officially declared extinct in 2011.Conservationists were forced to watch the last of this rhino species die out as any efforts to save them were found to be futile.
3. Brazillian Alagoas Foliage-gleaner
This songbird among many other birds, enriched the bio-diversity in the North Eastern Brazillian forest before deforestation plagued their home . The last time anyone saw an alagoas foliage-gleaner was in 2011. After nearly a decade with no sighting, they were officially declared extinct in 2018.
4. Eastern Cougar
Often described as highly criptic, this feline was last seen roaming all the U.S states east of the Mississipi in 1938. Even though they are incredibly difficult to track, it is highly unlikely that they could remain undetected for eight decades. On this basis, they were officially declared extinct in 2018.
5. Japanese River Otter
Famous for their groovy dance moves and even more widely known for their lush fur, the Japanese river otter was last spotted in Japan’s Kochi Prefecture in 1979. Majority of their population was lost due to overhunting. After nearly 30 years with no sighting, this otter was declared extinct.
6. Spix’s Macaw
This beautiful blue parrot made it’s cinematic debut in the 2011 animated film ‘Rio’. In the film, Blu who is the last living male spix’s macaw flies all the way to Rio de Janeiro where he is united with Jewel, the last living female spix’s macaw. They fall in love, have babies and live happily ever after. The spix’s macaw have a not so happy ending in the real world as they have been declared extinct in the wild as of 2018. Only 60-80 of the species remain in captivity.
7. Northern White Rhino
It has been an incredibly difficult decade for rhinos as yet another of its’ species was declared functionally extinct. Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, took his last breath in early 2018 at a conservancy in Kenya. Only two females of his species remain.
8. Bramble Cay Melomys
Believed to be the first ever mammals to fall victim to climate change, the bramble cay melomys were endemic to a single island in Australia. When it became apparent that the impacts of climate change could wipe them out, scientists rushed to the island in a bid to capture a few and start a captive breeding programme. But they were too late! Every last one of them were gone! Scientists concluded that they were extinct in 2014.
9. Christmas Island pipstrelle
The last of this Christmas island bat was seen in 2009. Experts blamed the Australian government for hesitating and delaying action while there was still time to save the species. They were officially declared extinct in 2017.
10. Catarina pupfish
This tiny fish was endemic to a spring in Nuevo Leon Mexico. Eventually, the spring dried up and so did the species population. They were officially declared extinct in 2019 but the last time anyone saw this cute little fish in the wild was in 1994.
As a child, the movie ‘The Lion King’ taught me the phrase the circle of life, which to me meant that every living thing on our planet is connected. And so a happy ecosystem= happy planet inhabitants. Today, the balance is broken and our environment and life on earth are equally in trouble. This motivates me to dedicate my time, talents, and skills to causes that seek to heal our environment and all of its inhabitants. I’m currently doing research and content creation at Wildchain for projects aimed at conserving species in the African Savannah.