Over the past 500 years, 844 species of animals and plants have completely died out, such data were published in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In this collection, we write about the species that fell into the category of extinct quite recently, in the 21st century.
Pinta Island Tortoise
This extinct subspecies of the Galapagos, or Abingdon Island giant tortoise, tortoises that inhabited the uninhabited island of Pinta (Ecuador) was described by Albert Gunther in 1877. But already at that time, most of the subspecies were exterminated by hunters.
Lonely George, 2007:
By the middle of the 20th century, it was believed that not a single Abingdon Island tortoise remained on Earth. However, in 1971, researchers discovered a male of this subspecies, who later received the name, Lone George.
The Pinta giant tortoise or Pinta Island tortoise was declared a functionally extinct subspecies, and it officially became so on June 24, 2012, when Lonely George died.
Spotted Green Pigeon
Scientists know little about the biology, causes of extinction, and even the habitat of this extinct bird. Today, there is only a single specimen of the species found in French Polynesia between 1783 and 1823. Today it is on display at one of Liverpool’s National Museums.
Spotted green pigeon, 1898. Drawing by Yosef Smith:
The spotted green pigeon was 32 cm long and had a deep green color. Judging by its small wings, not exceeding 17.5 cm, scientists suggested that the species inhabited an island on which it had no predators. In addition, the color of the bird allows us to conclude that, most likely, it lived in the forest. Bird watcher David Gibbs also believes that the bird may have lived on the island of Tahiti, as in 1928 the locals told him about a mysterious green bird with white spots, which they called “titi”. According to the scientist, titi could very well be a spotted green pigeon.
The spotted green pigeon was included in the list of extinct species in 2008.
Spotted green pigeon, 1823:
Pyrenean Ibex or Bucardo
This subspecies of the Iberian goat previously inhabited the Iberian Peninsula and was especially common in the Cantabrian mountains and in the northern part of the Pyrenees.
The males differed from the females in the size of their horns. So, for males bucardos were characterized by large, thick horns with a ribbed surface and curving back, and for females – short. There is an opinion that one “rib” on the horn of a bucardo male corresponded to the year of the animal’s life, and the total number of “ribs” made it possible to judge its age.
Bucardo, 1898. Drawing by Josef Wolf:
Bucardos ate plant foods and migrated depending on the season. In the spring, during the mating season, this subspecies preferred the higher parts of the mountains, and in the winter it migrated to the mountain valleys, which, as a rule, were not covered with snow.
The subspecies were widespread until the 19th century, but by 1900 its numbers had declined to about 100 individuals. Since 1910, only 40 bucardos remained, and they could only be found in the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Parks in the Spanish province of Huesca.
The subspecies were recognized as extinct in 2000 when the last female named Celia died. In January of the same year, scientists tried to clone a bucardo using the DNA of the deceased Celia. However, the attempt failed.
What caused the extinction of the subspecies? Researchers have different opinions on this matter. These include unlimited hunting, habitat destruction, and interspecies competition for food with livestock. However, to date, none of the researchers can give an exact answer.
Western Black Rhinoceros
Previously, this subspecies was widespread in the savannah south of the Sahara, but its numbers have been greatly reduced due to poaching. In 2011, the Cameroon black rhino was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Rhinos of this subspecies could reach about 4 meters in length and weigh up to 1.3 tons. Like all black rhinos, they ate plant food, going out in search of it in the morning and evening. And during the day, during the hottest part of the day, they slept or rested in the shade. Cameroon black rhinos had poor eyesight and often recognized the approaching hunter by the behavior of the birds near them. This circumstance made the subspecies very vulnerable to hunters.
Many people believe that the horns of the Cameroon black rhinoceros have medicinal properties, but this assumption has not been scientifically supported. For this and other reasons, in the early 20th century, Cameroon black rhinos were very often hunted. However, in 1930, the population of the subspecies grew slightly due to measures to protect it. As a result, by 1980 the population of Cameroon black rhinos reached several hundred.
Nevertheless, illegal hunting of the rare black rhinos continued, and by 2000 there were about 10 individuals left. And by 2001 this number had halved. The last time a black rhino was seen in Cameroon was in 2006.
The Alaotra Grebe, Delacour’s Little Grebe, or Rusty Grebe
This extinct bird, no more than 25 cm in length, could only be seen in the wild on Alaotra, Madagascar’s largest lake, and the lakes nearby.
Due to its small wings, the Rusty Grebe could not fly long distances and therefore was very sensitive to changes in its habitat. So, in the 20th century, the number of species decreased significantly, since fish from the snakehead family were released into the reservoirs where the species lived. They successfully hunted small birds. The decline in the number was also influenced by other human activities – fishing with gill nets, in which birds were often confused. The species was declared extinct in 2010.
Cape Verde Giant Skink, Bibron’s Skink, Lagarto, or Cocteau’s Skink
This large lizard was the only representative of the giant skinks. She lived on the Branco and Razo islands in the Cape Verde archipelago. Basically, the species feeding on vegetation, however, from the beginning of the 20th century, it began to eat chicks of birds nesting on the islands. A characteristic feature of the reptile was the transparent lower eyelids, which allowed it to notice the predators below from the tree.
The main reason for the disappearance of this species, scientists call the destruction of the lizard’s habitat as a result of human economic activity. The tree lizard was never able to adapt to the desert conditions and the disappearance of the usual food. In 2013, the Cape Verdean Giant Skinks were declared officially extinct by the IUCN.