Last Chance to See?
Reviews of the decade allow greater scope for reflection than end of year sum-ups, a year being just too short a frame of reference to allow considered observation of changes and emerging trends. When we raise our glasses to 2010 later this month, ‘the Noughties’ will be history. So now is the time to look back over the last ten years. In this vein, a few weeks ago a weekend magazine presented readers with a broad survey of world events during this first decade of the 21st century, including a list of ten animal extinctions.
It’s easy to imagine that the only species which become extinct these days are obsure and undistinguished beetles, virtually identical to thousands of other related beetles, or other lifeforms uninteresting to the layman and not contributing much to the colour and diversity of global fauna.
However, top of the magazine’s list was the Baiji dolphin, which lived in China’s Yangtze river. The last documented sighting was in 2002. Were there no glaring warning signals? After all, dolphins are among the more photogenic animals. A Save the Yangtze River Dolphin campaign would have had garnered plenty of attention. And then there’s the Golden, or Monteverde, Toad. A gold-coloured amphibian can’t be that easy to mislay. Yet it was confirmed extinct in 2007. It seems pollution and global warming led to its downfall, as it existed only on a high altitude ridge in Costa Rica.
All this has happened in a decade when conservation has been relatively high on the agenda. Higher certainly than in the first half of the 20th century. The most-missed species to have disappeared in that period is surely the Tasmanian Tiger, a wolf-like carnivorous marsupial, the last specimen filmed for posterity at Hobart Zoo in the 1930s.
Back to the current decade, and Hawaii has lost two bird species, the Po’o-uli and the Kama’o. The latter was a large thrush: research for this blog has found that a smaller variety still exists, but is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’. Will it still be around when we write our decennial reviews in 2019?