Saving Earth: Alaotra Grebe to West-African Black Rhino, species that have gone extinct in the last decade

The rate at which extinctions have taken place, although, has never been as high as it is today and it is happening at a faster pace than ever before


                            Saving Earth: Alaotra Grebe to West-African Black Rhino, species that have gone extinct in the last decade
(Wikimedia Commons)
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Planet Earth is in dire need of solutions. Astronomer Carl Sagan once said that we have a responsibility "to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Our campaign Saving Earth focuses on nature and wildlife conservation and this column will feature stories on the pressing needs of our planet and hopefulness of our fight.

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Extinction is an inevitable part of life, much like death. A natural phenomenon, extinction has occurred cyclically throughout the planet's history. At least 99 percent of species that once walked the earth have now been considered extinct. Their disappearance can be attributed to drastic changes in the environment or the occurrence of a new one, leading to a persistent turnover.

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The rate at which extinctions have taken place, although, has never been as high as it is today and it is happening at a faster pace in comparison to before. According to experts, currently, the earth is going through its sixth mass extinction. There is no way back from it, as once the species are lost, it is a loss for all life on Earth. Here are 10 of the most recent animal species that are gone forever and deemed extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Alaotra Grebe

Alaotra Grebe (Tachybaptus Rufolavatus) illustration (Wikimedia Commons)

The first and only known existence of the Alaotra Grebe, also known as Delacour's Little Grebe or Rusty Grebe, was recorded in 1985. It appeared as a charming little black and rust-colored water bird. The harrowing image is the single photographic evidence of the creature, a species of bird that was officially re-listed from critically endangered to extinct in 2010. It was endemic to Lake Alaotra, and its surrounding lakes in Madagascar where only 12 individuals had been recorded in 1982. By 1985 the number had fallen to two. They were a small winged species, with adults being as long as only 25 cms and a small wingspan which meant they were incapable of a prolonged flight. They were particularly vulnerable to poaching and were often prey to predatory fish. Their survival was faced by threats include loss of habitat and water pollution from farming activities. 

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Pinta Island Tortoise

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise (Wikimedia Commons)

The Pinta tortoise was first believed to be extinct in the mid-1900s when its habitat of the Galapagos Archipelago was taken over by fishermen and the goats that were brought with them. A Hungarian scientist surprisingly found a tortoise on Pinta Island in 1971, and named him 'Lonesome George'. He died at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island of Galapagos Islands in 2012 at 100 years old. 

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Eastern Cougar

Eastern cougar (Wikimedia Commons)

Almost 36 years after it was first classified as endangered, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began a formal review of the eastern cougar in 2011. This subspecies of feline was also known as ghost cat, catamount, puma, panther, mountain lion and cougar. It was originally hunted in southern  Canada to the tip of South America. The USFWS concluded in 2011 that there was no evidence of its existence and the population had been wiped out of its once enormous habitat. Experts believe their population began declining when European immigrants began killing them to protect their families and livestock. 

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Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle 

The last known female turtle of the Yangtze species died in China in April 2019, during an artificial insemination procedure. The species is now effectively extinct. 

Formosan Clouded Leopard

Formosan Clouded Leopard (Wikimedia Commons)

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These giant cats were a subspecies of the clouded leopard, endemic to Taiwan. Their decline was mostly caused by the destruction of their habitat and hunting for their skin, say IUCN scientists. They primarily lived in close ever-green tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia, which is now a site of the world's fastest deforestation. While a related subspecies of clouded leopards live in the Himalayas, the IUCN fears they are also vulnerable to extinction.

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Liverpool Pigeon

Illustration by John Latham, from A General History of Birds, 1823 (Wikimedia Commons)

The only specimen that exists of this species is stored in the World Museum in Liverpool. It was a third with a spotted green plumage, and genetic studies suggested it was a close relative of the Dodo. It was thought to have lived in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean. They were hunted by Tahitians to the point of extinction. It was listed as extinct in 2008, and added to the IUCN's 'Red List'.

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Poo-uli 

The Hawaiian bird was last seen in 2004, and officially declared extinct in 2019. The cause of their rapid decline is attributed to invasive species and disease-carrying mosquitoes and the introduction of non-native garlic snails caused a decline in native land snails, which was their food. In 1973, researchers estimated that fewer than 200 Black-faced honeycreepers lived in the wild and by 1997, only three of them could be found.

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West African Black Rhinoceros

Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis occidentalis) female, Etosha National Park, Namibia (Wikimedia Commons)

In the beginning of the 20th century, the population of the Black Rhino from across Africa numbered a million, 60 years later they were mercilessly slaughtered by poachers coveting their horns for trad in the lucrative market in the Far East. By 1997, their population ahd dwindled to 1997, with only rare sightings. The species has now been included in the world’s list of extinct creatures.

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