By John Macklien Olandag | February 3, 2021
One day, in a lonely group of islands situated in the Indian Ocean in what is now Mauritius, animals of different species flocked around a paradise interlinked with blue and crisp river waters.
Dodo birds, now unknown to human eyes, are large and flightless birds whose exact appearance is still shrouded in mystery. These birds once thrived in Mauritius, before humans settled the islands. Dutch explorers did the first documented sighting of these dodo birds during the early 17th century.
About fifty years later, they were all wiped out from the face of the Earth. Scientists of the known world then collected specimens of their remains. Tragically, the specimens were unappreciated and were later lost, making dodos almost unknown today.
This is the reality of animal extinction. Many species of animals and plants have gone extinct throughout the years because of both natural and manmade causes. Some perished because of the changing weather patterns, while some fell victims to industrialization. The remains of some of these organisms have been described and recorded. Unfortunately, many were not even properly documented, and scientists could only speculate on the undiscovered species that have become extinct even before discovery.
In the modern world, many species are threatened with extinction. The unbalanced trade-off between the ecosystem and industrialization is happening on such an overwhelming scale that it has affected wildlife, climate, and weather patterns.
When all hope seemed to dwindle, some animals which could have faced extinction rose and began to see another tomorrow as efforts to conserve them intensified.
An online article by the travel and lifestyle site Trafalgar, published in 2019, listed six animals that are no longer placed in the endangered list, along with their features written by National Geographic. The said article was made along with the celebration of World Animal Day.
• Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)
These are subspecies of white rhinoceros. A near cousin, the Northern White Rhinoceros, has only two females left alive. The southern variant is found in vast numbers in South Africa, and can also be located in other areas of the African continent’s southern part. Standing at 12 feet and weighing about 8,000 pounds, they are the second largest mammal on Earth. While their northern cousins were facing the threat of extinction with the death of the last male Northern White Rhino in 2018, these southerners have seen a comeback in numbers as efforts to conserve them were successful. They were thought to be extinct until 1895, when a small population of these rhinos were found in South Africa. Conservation efforts had raised their numbers to about 20,000, which were made possible by creative ways done to keep poachers away from hunting them for their horns, like injecting these horns with poisons that would not harm these rhinos but would dissuade buyers, or better yet, cutting off their horns to deter poachers.
• Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
For nearly half a century, these animals have been a symbol of conservation and the inspiration for the World Wildlife Fund logo. Giant pandas live in remote forests of central and northwestern China. These pandas have an insatiable appetite for bamboo, consuming 28 pounds in average to satisfy its daily dietary needs. They also sometimes eat birds and rodents. Improved conservation efforts by China, along with the solitary nature of these mammals, downgraded their extinction risk from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2016. There are now 2,000 of these species living in the wild, along with many more of their cousins.
• Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)
Depicted in Arabian poetries and art, the Arabian oryx shares similarities with a unicorn, with its two long horns seemingly fusing into one. Virtually placed into a “fictional” extinction in 1972 due to them being killed, amazingly, they had skyrocketed in numbers to a thousand in its native breeding areas Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and even in Israel and Jordan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) then updated the status of these antelopes from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” The conservation efforts were further made possible with the cooperation of various organizations, governments, and zoos through breeding a “world herd,” which consisted of the descendants of the last wild antelopes that were captured in the 1970’s, as well as royal stock from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
• Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
Wolves are the largest members of the dog family. Although there hasn’t been any documented instances of these wolves attacking humans, they are still considered to be among the world’s most feared villains, attacking domestic animals. This is the reason why they are being shot or poisoned to death in overwhelming numbers. Gray wolves were then found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but due to the adversarial history between humans and wolves, they were hunted to near extinction. But a few populations of these wolves had survived and were reintroduced, living mostly in Alaska and Canada, with others even inhabiting the cold parts of Asia and Europe. With a sufficient number of populations for breeding, they are now listed among those of least concern for the IUCN red list of endangered animals.
• Northern Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)
This iconic New Zealand bird had been removed from the list of critically endangered species through 25 years of conservation efforts that enabled them to grow at an average of 2% in number per year. While they are placed under great care in conservation facilities, people can still be able to see them through conservation centers all throughout New Zealand. The National Zoo in Washington D.C. in the United States is also a home to seven kiwis where people are given a chance to meet these kiwis.
• Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
The Louisiana Black Bear is one of the 16 subspecies of American Black Bear native only in the American state of Louisiana, with a small number found in east Texas and west Mississippi. By the late 1980’s, 80% of the Louisiana Black Bears’ habitat had been disturbed or destroyed, therefore listing them among those which are critically endangered. With the restoration of their habitats years later by private landowners along with state and federal agencies, the Louisiana Black Bear was removed from the critically endangered red list in 2016. More than 200,000 acres of land have been placed under protection. Now, there are already 500 to 750 Louisiana Black Bears roaming around the United States.
The threat of extinction is an inevitable reality. The flora and fauna of today may not be the same ones tomorrow as technological progress becomes the driving force in these times. Changes in the environment affect the way animals thrive and live, altering the whole ecology. But a more optimistic question should be asked: How many more animals can people save from the face of extinction?