Through the millenniums, humans have ruled and ravaged the Earth, expanding where they live, cutting down forests for farmland, overfishing waters, and razing entire areas with their pollution. But what has been the cost of our activity to the others that we share this planet with? The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently published a staggering list detailing the 21,000 animals at risk for extinction. But what's worse is that beyond these animals, hundreds have already disappeared at our hand. Keep reading for seven animals that we've recently driven to extinction.
Pinta Island Tortoise (2012)
Lonesome George was the last known Pinta Island Tortoise in the world, and he died on June 24, 2012. Although the exact age of the massive reptile was unknown, he was estimated to be over 100 years old. The subspecies of the Galápagos tortoise was first discovered in 1877. Despite being such a majestically ancient animal, the tortoises were nearly hunted to extinction by the end of the 19-century. The species was assumed to be extinct until a single male was discovered in 1971. This lone tortoise was named George and flown to Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island where he lived out the rest of his natural life.
Western Black Rhinoceros (2011)
Unfortunately we have to inform you that yet another species of rhino is extinct from, you guessed it, poaching. The Western Black Rhinoceros was a subspecies of the black rhino that lived mainly in Cameroon. The rhinos were hunted into extinction for their ivory horns and thick hides—even after protections were issued in the 1930s. Scientists led a survey in 2006 in search of any remaining Western Black Rhinos in their northern Cameroon habitat. Returning without having spotted any, the species was declared extinct in 2011.
Caribbean Monk Seal (2008)
The Caribbean Monk Seal was once the only known seal native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the only seal species known to go extinct specifically because of humans. This tragedy can be traced all the way back to 1494, when Christopher Columbus sailed the Caribbean. Upon discovering the harmless animal, Columbus ordered his men to kill eight of the seals, which he and other sea explorers called “sea wolves.” Centuries later Caribbean Monk Seals were hunted extensively for their blubber throughout the 1700s and 1800s. The last one seen alive was in 1952 on the Serranilla Bank between Honduras and Jamaica. However, the marine creature was only added to the list of extinct animals on June 6, 2008.
Baiji River Dolphin (2006)
Officially declared extinct in 2006, Baiji River Dolphins have lived a hard life thanks to humans. The disappearance of the Baiji dolphin, which was only found in China’s Yangtze River, is most directly related to the industrialization of China. As industrial and residential waste flowed into the river, humans overfished the river water with larger boats and wider nets. In the 1970s and 1980s, a large portion of the Baiji deaths were caused by collisions with boat propellers or as the dolphins became entangled in fishing nets. On top of these environmentally encroaching factors, the dolphins, often referred to as the “goddesses of the river”, were hunted for their skin to make gloves and handbags. By 1997, an estimated 13 Baiji were left in the world. In late 2006, the animal was declared functionally extinct.
Pyrenean Ibex (2000)
The death of the last Pyrenean Ibex is tragically and intrinsically tied with human science. In 2009, scientists attempted to revive the extinct animal by cloning a Pyrenean Ibex using a domestic goat egg. A clone was successfully born, but it quickly died after being birth due to lung failure. The Pyrenean Ibex once had an abundant population endemic to the Pyrenees mountain range, which stretches through Andorra, France, and Spain. However, their numbers began to rapidly decrease beginning in the 19th century due to hunters. At the beginning of the 20th century there were an estimated 100 living. This number continued to drop dramatically until the last naturally born Pyrenean Ibex, named Celia, died on January 6th, 2000 at the tender age of 13. She was tragically found under a fallen tree.
Ivory-billed Woodpecker (1994)
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was once of the largest woodpeckers in the world with a wingspan of up to thirty inches. It was native to the forests and swamps of the southeastern United States, and in the late 19-century, deforestation and hunting devastated the population of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. The last definitive sighting of the woodpeckers was in the 1940s, and the animal was listed as endangered in 1967. Although the bird was deemed extinct in 1994, conservationists, birdwatchers, and scientists continue to roam around Arkansas hoping to catch even a glimpse of this extremely rare and sought after woodpecker. The Nature Conservancy even announced a $50,000 award for anyone who could lead a project biologist to a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker. To this day there are still no confirmed sightings of the bird.
Javan Tiger (1994)
Javan Tigers were once a subspecies of tiger known for their unusually long cheek whiskers, and the could only be found on the Indonesian island of Java. Before human intervention, the big cats were so common on the island that they were considered a common pest. In the early 20-century, massive farm expansion led the to killing, and worse, poisoning of many tigers. Periods of war and civil unrest further caused mass killings of these tigers. By the mid 1960s, the surviving tiger population was spread out between three protected areas. But that did not stop the poaching. Even after the park was upgraded to wildlife reserve in 1972 and scientific surveys were conducted to find the last remaining Javan Tigers, another tigers continued to be killed. The species was declared extinct in 1999 after a camera trap survey of 19 sites saw no remaining tigers.