The top 10 extinct animals in the world showcase the consequences of human-induced habitat loss and ongoing environmental changes. In this compilation, we highlight some of the species that tragically became extinct in 2021. Let’s delve into the details.
Table of Contents
- 01. Splendid poison frog (Extinct 2020)
- 02 Baiji Dolphin (Extinct 2020)
- 03 Alaotra grebe Bird (Extinct 2010)
- 04 Pinta Giant Tortoise (Estimated extinct 2012)
- 05 Partula mooreana (Functionally extinct)
- 06 Spix’s Macaw (Extinct 2000)
- 07 Western Black Rhino (Extinct 2011)
- 08 Bramble Cay melomys (Extinct 2019)
- 09 Pyrenean ibex
- 10 Asiatic Cheetah (Functionally Extinct since 1948)
01. Splendid poison frog (Extinct 2020)
The Splendid poison frog, also known as the splendid poison-arrow frog (scientific name: Dendrobates speciosus), was a strikingly beautiful species of poison dart frog that was sadly declared extinct in 2020. It was endemic to the eastern end of Cordillera de Talamanca, located in western Panama. This frog inhabited the humid lowland and montane forests of the region, adding a vibrant touch to the diverse ecosystems it called home.
One of the most distinctive features of the Splendid poison frog was its striking coloration. It possessed a brilliant array of colors, with a predominantly blue body and contrasting black markings. This combination of colors served as a warning to potential predators, as it signaled the presence of potent toxins in the frog’s skin. These toxins, derived from the frog’s diet of ants, beetles, and mites, made it one of the most poisonous amphibians in the world.
Unfortunately, the Splendid poison frog faced numerous threats that ultimately led to its extinction. The primary factor contributing to its demise was deforestation and habitat degradation. The expansion of human activities, such as logging and the conversion of forests into agricultural land, resulted in the loss of the frog’s natural habitat. Additionally, the growth of urban and suburban areas, along with the construction and use of rail lines, further fragmented and destroyed the remaining forested areas.
The destruction of the Splendid poison frog’s habitat had severe consequences for the species. As the forests were cleared, the frog lost its shelter, breeding grounds, and food sources. It became increasingly vulnerable to predation, disease, and the disruption of its reproductive cycles. The loss of connectivity between fragmented habitats further limited the frog’s ability to disperse and find suitable areas for survival.
Efforts were made to conserve and protect the Splendid poison frog, including establishing protected areas and implementing conservation programs. However, these measures proved insufficient to counteract the rapid pace of habitat destruction and the associated impacts on the frog’s population.
02 Baiji Dolphin (Extinct 2020)
The Baiji Dolphin, also known as the Chinese river dolphin, Yangtze river dolphin, Yangtze dolphin, and white fin dolphin, was a possibly extinct species of freshwater dolphin. Tragically, it is believed to be the first dolphin species to have been driven to extinction directly due to human activities. Its disappearance was officially recognized in 2020.
The Baiji Dolphin was once native to the Yangtze River in China. It possessed a unique and graceful appearance, with a long and slender body, a distinctively long snout, and a characteristic curved dorsal fin. Its coloration ranged from light gray to bluish-gray, and it had a prominent white belly, giving rise to its alternative name, the white fin dolphin.
The primary factor contributing to the decline of the Baiji Dolphin was the use of fishing nets with hooks, which inadvertently caught and drowned the dolphins as bycatch. These fishing nets posed a significant threat to the species, as they were not selective and had a devastating impact on the dolphin population. The Baiji Dolphins’ low reproductive rate and small population size further exacerbated their vulnerability to such incidental capture.
Habitat degradation also played a role in the decline of the Baiji Dolphin. The construction of dams, pollution from industrial activities and shipping, and the degradation of the river’s water quality resulted in the degradation and fragmentation of the dolphin’s natural habitat. These factors reduced the availability of suitable breeding and foraging grounds, making it increasingly challenging for the species to survive.
Efforts were made to conserve the Baiji Dolphin, including establishing protected areas and implementing conservation measures. However, these initiatives proved to be insufficient to reverse the species’ decline. Despite numerous expeditions and searches, no confirmed sightings of the Baiji Dolphin have been reported since 2002, leading to its presumed extinction.
The extinction of the Baiji Dolphin serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of human impact on vulnerable species and their habitats. It highlights the urgent need for responsible fishing practices and the conservation of freshwater ecosystems. The loss of the Baiji Dolphin is a profound loss not only for China but for the world, underscoring the importance of preserving and protecting the biodiversity that makes our planet unique.
03 Alaotra grebe Bird (Extinct 2010)
The Alaotra grebe, also referred to as Delacour’s little grebe or rusty grebe, was a species of grebe that was sadly declared extinct in 2010. This bird was endemic to Lake Alaotra and the nearby lakes in Madagascar, making it a unique and valuable part of the island’s biodiversity.
The Alaotra grebe was a small, diving bird with distinctive plumage. It had a rusty-colored back, hence its alternative name, and a white breast. Its compact size and specialized adaptations allowed it to navigate and forage effectively in the marshy habitats of Lake Alaotra. The bird’s diet mainly consisted of small fish, invertebrates, and aquatic plants.
The decline and eventual extinction of the Alaotra grebe can be attributed to two main factors. Poaching played a significant role in the bird’s demise. The grebe’s striking appearance made it a target for hunters, who pursued it for its feathers and as a food source. Unregulated hunting and the illegal wildlife trade led to a sharp decline in the bird’s population.
Additionally, the introduction of predatory fish to Lake Alaotra had a detrimental impact on the grebe’s survival. The introduction of species such as the snakehead fish and the small Indian mongoose disrupted the delicate ecological balance of the lake. These predatory species competed with the Alaotra grebe for food and preyed upon its eggs and chicks, further reducing its numbers.
Conservation efforts were initiated to save the Alaotra grebe from extinction, including the establishment of protected areas and breeding programs. However, these measures proved insufficient to reverse the decline of the species. The last confirmed sighting of the Alaotra grebe occurred in 1985, and subsequent searches failed to locate any remaining individuals.
The loss of the Alaotra grebe highlights the fragility of Madagascar’s unique ecosystems and the devastating consequences of human activities on vulnerable species. It serves as a reminder of the urgent need for effective conservation strategies, habitat protection, and sustainable management of natural resources.
04 Pinta Giant Tortoise (Estimated extinct 2012)
The Pinta Giant Tortoise, also known as the Pinta Island tortoise or Lonesome George, is an extinct species of giant tortoise that was native to the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. Although the exact year of its extinction is uncertain, it is believed to have occurred around 2012.
Lonesome George gained worldwide fame as the last known individual of the Pinta Giant Tortoise species. He lived on Pinta Island, hence the name, and became a symbol of conservation and the urgent need to protect endangered species. Lonesome George was carefully monitored and efforts were made to find a suitable mate for him to ensure the survival of his species. Unfortunately, all attempts to breed him with closely related tortoises from other islands proved unsuccessful.
The decline and extinction of the Pinta Giant Tortoise can be attributed primarily to human activities. The arrival of humans on the Galápagos Islands led to habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species, such as goats, which competed with the tortoises for food and destroyed their natural habitat. Additionally, the hunting of tortoises for food and the collection of their shells by sailors further contributed to their decline.
The Galápagos Islands are known for their unique biodiversity and the remarkable adaptations of their species. The Pinta Giant Tortoise played a crucial role in shaping the islands’ ecosystems through seed dispersal and vegetation management. With their extinction, the delicate balance of the Galápagos ecosystem was disrupted, and the loss of this species is a significant blow to the islands’ biodiversity.
The story of Lonesome George and the extinction of the Pinta Giant Tortoise serves as a poignant reminder of the impact humans can have on vulnerable species and their habitats. It underscores the importance of conservation efforts, habitat protection, and the preservation of biodiversity. The Galápagos Islands and other ecosystems around the world need continued vigilance and sustainable practices to prevent the loss of more unique and irreplaceable species.
05 Partula mooreana (Functionally extinct)
The Partula mooreana, commonly known as the Moorean viviparous tree snail, was a species of air-breathing tropical land snail belonging to the family Partulidae. Endemic to French Polynesia, this species was once found on the island of Moorea. However, it is now considered extinct in the wild.
The Moorean viviparous tree snail was characterized by its unique reproductive method. Unlike most snails, which lay eggs, this species gave birth to live young. This viviparous adaptation allowed the snail to increase its reproductive success and population growth.
The decline and ultimate extinction of the Partula mooreana can be attributed to a combination of factors. The introduction of non-native predators, such as the carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea, had a devastating impact on the snail population. The predatory snail fed on the Partula mooreana, leading to a rapid decline in its numbers. Additionally, habitat destruction, including deforestation and urbanization, further exacerbated the snail’s vulnerability and restricted its available habitat.
Conservation efforts were initiated in an attempt to save the species from extinction. The establishment of captive breeding programs in zoos and conservation organizations aimed to maintain populations of Partula mooreana and potentially reintroduce them to the wild. However, despite these efforts, the snail’s extinction in its natural habitat has been confirmed.
The loss of the Moorean viviparous tree snail highlights the fragile nature of island ecosystems and the detrimental impact of introduced species. It serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for responsible conservation practices and the prevention of invasive species introductions.
Although the Partula mooreana is now extinct in the wild, ongoing efforts focus on preserving the genetic material of the species through the management of captive populations. These initiatives aim to safeguard the species’ genetic diversity and potentially reintroduce it into suitable habitats in the future.
06 Spix’s Macaw (Extinct 2000)
The Spix’s Macaw, also known as the little blue macaw, was a species of macaw native to Brazil. It belonged to the tribe Arini in the subfamily Arinae, which is part of the family Psittacidae.
The Spix’s macaw held the distinction of being one of the rarest birds in the world. By the year 2000, the species was declared extinct in the wild. Today, it is estimated that there are only 177 individuals remaining in captivity worldwide.
The Spix’s macaw was known for its striking appearance. It had vibrant blue feathers, a long tail, and a distinctive blue-grey head. The bird possessed a slender and agile build, adapting well to its natural habitat in the dry and arid regions of northeastern Brazil.
The decline and eventual extinction of the Spix’s macaw can be attributed to several factors. Habitat loss due to deforestation and human encroachment was a significant threat to the species. The destruction of the bird’s natural habitat severely limited its food sources and nesting sites.
Additionally, illegal capture for the exotic pet trade posed a major threat to the population. The Spix’s macaw’s rarity and unique beauty made it highly sought after by collectors, leading to extensive poaching. Combined with the loss of its habitat, the unsustainable capture of wild individuals hastened the decline of the species.
Conservation efforts were initiated to save the Spix’s macaw from extinction. Captive breeding programs were established with the hope of increasing the population and potentially reintroducing the species to its native habitat. These programs have achieved some success, with the captive population gradually increasing over the years.
Efforts have also been made to protect and restore the macaw’s natural habitat in Brazil. Restoration projects aim to create suitable conditions for the reintroduction of the species, should that become a possibility in the future.
The extinction of the Spix’s macaw serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of conservation and the impact of human activities on vulnerable species. It highlights the need for responsible wildlife management, habitat preservation, and the prevention of illegal wildlife trade.
07 Western Black Rhino (Extinct 2011)
The western black rhinoceros, also known as the West African black rhinoceros, was a subspecies of the black rhinoceros that unfortunately became extinct in 2011. It was recognized as a distinct subspecies and was genetically different from other rhino subspecies.
The main cause of the extinction of the West African black rhino was rampant poaching. Illegal hunters, known as poachers, targeted these rhinos primarily for their horns. The demand for rhino horns in various markets, including the use in traditional Chinese medicine and as decorative items in the Middle East, drove the relentless killing of these majestic animals.
The rhino horn trade has long been associated with myths and beliefs about its medicinal properties and cultural value. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the demand for rhino horns persisted, resulting in an intense and unsustainable hunting pressure on the West African black rhino population.
Poachers targeted these rhinos for their horns, often leaving the rest of the animal discarded. The high commercial value of the horns fueled the illegal trade, making the West African black rhino an easy target for organized criminal networks involved in wildlife trafficking.
Conservation efforts were initiated to protect the West African black rhino and combat poaching. However, the scale of the poaching crisis, combined with limited resources and enforcement capabilities, made it challenging to halt the decline of the population.
In 2011, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the western black rhinoceros extinct. The loss of this subspecies serves as a tragic example of the devastating consequences of illegal wildlife trade and highlights the urgent need for stronger conservation measures, international collaboration, and public awareness to combat poaching.
Efforts continue to conserve and protect the remaining populations of other rhinoceros species worldwide. Conservation organizations work tirelessly to safeguard these iconic creatures and their habitats, implementing anti-poaching measures, supporting local communities, and raising awareness about the importance of conserving wildlife.
08 Bramble Cay melomys (Extinct 2019)
The Bramble Cay melomys, also known as the Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat, was a recently extinct species of rodent in the family Muridae and subfamily Murinae. This unique rodent was endemic to Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay situated at the northernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The Bramble Cay melomys had a limited distribution and was specifically adapted to the unique conditions of its habitat. Unfortunately, scientists have confirmed that the species became extinct in 2019, making it the first mammal known to go extinct due to human-driven climate change.
The key factor behind the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys was the impact of rising sea levels and the resulting loss of its habitat. Bramble Cay, where the melomys exclusively resided, was a low-lying island with an elevation of less than 10 feet above sea level. As global sea levels rose due to climate change, the cay faced increased vulnerability to wave action and flooding events.
The combination of severe weather events, storm surges, and ongoing erosion gradually diminished the available habitat for the Bramble Cay melomys. As their habitat shrank, the population of this species decreased and eventually reached a critical point, leading to its extinction.
The plight of the Bramble Cay melomys underscores the far-reaching impacts of climate change on vulnerable species and delicate ecosystems. Rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and habitat loss are some of the direct consequences of climate change that put numerous species at risk of extinction.
The loss of the Bramble Cay melomys serves as a wake-up call regarding the urgent need for global action to mitigate climate change and its devastating effects on biodiversity. It highlights the importance of conservation efforts, habitat protection, and sustainable practices to safeguard endangered species and preserve their habitats.
09 Pyrenean ibex
The Pyrenean ibex, known as the bucardo in Aragonese and Spanish, bukardo in Basque, herc in Catalan, and bouquetin in French, was one of the subspecies of the Iberian ibex or Iberian wild goat. It was endemic to the Pyrenees, a mountain range that forms a natural border between Spain and France.
The extinction of the Pyrenean ibex is a tragic event in the history of biodiversity. The exact cause of its extinction is not definitively known, but scientists believe that a combination of factors contributed to the decline and ultimate demise of the species.
Poaching was one significant factor that impacted the Pyrenean ibex population. Hunting for its meat, trophy hunting, and illegal trade in its body parts for various purposes posed a severe threat to the survival of the species. Overhunting and uncontrolled poaching reduced the population to critically low levels.
Disease also played a role in the decline of the Pyrenean ibex. Outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly in small and fragmented populations, can have devastating effects on the survival and reproductive success of wildlife. Disease transmission from domestic livestock or other wild ungulates may have contributed to the decline of the species.
Another factor that likely affected the Pyrenean ibex was competition for resources. As human activities expanded, both domestic and wild ungulates increased in numbers, leading to intensified competition for food and habitat. The Pyrenean ibex may have struggled to secure adequate resources to sustain its population in the face of competition from other species.
Efforts were made to conserve the Pyrenean ibex through captive breeding programs and reintroduction initiatives. However, despite these efforts, the last surviving individual, a female named Celia, died in 2000, making the Pyrenean ibex officially extinct.
The loss of the Pyrenean ibex highlights the need for effective conservation strategies, including habitat protection, wildlife management, and law enforcement against poaching. It serves as a poignant reminder of the fragile nature of biodiversity and the urgent need to preserve and protect endangered species.
10 Asiatic Cheetah (Functionally Extinct since 1948)
The Asiatic cheetah, a subspecies of cheetah, is classified as Critically Endangered and is currently found only in Iran. This magnificent creature was once distributed across a vast range, including the Arabian Peninsula, the Near East, the Caspian region, Transcaucasus, Kyzylkum Desert, and India. However, throughout the 20th century, the Asiatic cheetah was extirpated from these regions, rendering it functionally extinct since 1948.
The decline of the Asiatic cheetah population can be attributed to various factors, including habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict. Rapid urbanization, expansion of agricultural lands, and infrastructure development encroached upon the cheetah’s natural habitat, leading to the fragmentation and degradation of its range.
Poaching for its prized skin and body parts, as well as retaliatory killings due to conflicts with livestock owners, further decimated the population. The Asiatic cheetah’s coat, which is unique and highly valued, made it a target for illegal wildlife trade.
Conservation efforts have been undertaken to protect and recover the Asiatic cheetah population. These initiatives have focused on establishing protected areas, implementing anti-poaching measures, raising awareness, and conducting research to better understand the species’ ecology and behavior.
Iran has played a crucial role in the conservation of the Asiatic cheetah, with dedicated efforts to protect its remaining habitat and establish conservation programs. Collaboration with international organizations and the scientific community has also been instrumental in conservation endeavors.
Despite these conservation efforts, the Asiatic cheetah remains on the brink of extinction. The small population that survives in Iran faces significant challenges, including habitat loss, limited prey availability, and the risk of inbreeding due to its isolated status.
Preserving the Asiatic cheetah’s habitat, curbing poaching, and promoting community-based conservation initiatives are essential to prevent the complete loss of this iconic subspecies. The conservation of the Asiatic cheetah not only represents the preservation of a unique and magnificent species but also contributes to the overall conservation of biodiversity and the ecosystems it inhabits.
In conclusion, the extinction of the Asiatic cheetah, the Bramble Cay melomys, the Pyrenean ibex, the Spix’s macaw, the Western black rhino, the Partula mooreana, the Alaotra grebe, the Pinta giant tortoise, the Baiji dolphin, and the splendid poison frog are painful reminders of the irreversible loss of biodiversity caused by human activities.
These species, each unique in their own right, succumbed to a variety of threats including habitat loss, poaching, disease, climate change, and competition with humans and other species. The combination of these factors, often exacerbated by human-driven activities such as deforestation, pollution, and illegal wildlife trade, pushed these animals to the brink of extinction and, in some cases, beyond.
These extinctions not only represent the loss of charismatic and iconic creatures but also disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, leading to far-reaching ecological consequences. The disappearance of these species is a stark reminder of the urgent need for global conservation efforts, stronger regulations, and sustainable practices to protect and restore our natural world.
The responsibility lies with individuals, communities, governments, and international organizations to take action against the drivers of extinction. Efforts must focus on preserving and restoring habitats, combatting illegal wildlife trade, implementing effective conservation strategies, and promoting education and awareness about the importance of biodiversity.
By learning from these extinctions and working collectively, we can strive to prevent further losses and ensure the survival of endangered species. It is our duty to protect and preserve the rich tapestry of life on Earth for future generations, recognizing that the well-being of humans is intricately intertwined with the well-being of the natural world.
Together, we have the power to make a difference and create a future where species no longer face the threat of extinction, and where the remarkable diversity of life can thrive for generations to come. Let us commit to conservation, sustainability, and stewardship of our planet, so that we may leave a legacy of a more harmonious coexistence with nature.