Mankind's population has reached unprecedented levels with an estimated 7.4 billion of us alive on Earth at the moment, and that number is only projected to increase over the coming years. Regretfully, though, many of the other species that share our world are not doing as well. Since the beginning of the 20th century at least 200 species have become extinct, some famously like the Dodo, but others simply slipped away quietly, never to be seen again. This list will detail five extinctions that occurred within the last 100 years that many people may never have heard of. However, despite this lists bleak outlook it is not my intention to depress people or foster feelings of hopelessness, rather I want to emphasize that there are species out there today who are still alive but struggling, and everyone who is concerned about them should look into ways that they can help.
5 Caspian Tiger
The tiger is undeniably one of the most magnificent and recognisable animals in the world, it symbolises beauty, strength and the spirit of the wild, so it will understandably come as a shock to most that a species of the tiger was hunted to extinction within living memory.
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Hyrcanian tiger prowled the mountains and forests of Turkey and Iran up until 1970. Weighing up to 240 kg the big cats were the apex predators of the region, hunting the bountiful populations of deer and wild boar. Unfortunately, it was their predatory nature and regal appearance that led to their downfall.
The Tigers were shot and poisoned by farmers who feared they would eat their livestock, and they were hunted ruthlessly by unregulated trophy hunters. These hunters also took a significant toll on the wild boar population in the region, creating a vicious cycle where hungry tigers were forced to hunt farmer's livestock and thus face the bullet.
It wasn't until 1947 that the government decided to try and save the Caspian tiger, but by then it was too late, their populations were too low and fragmented ever to be saved. Though sightings still come from high in the mountains to this day, the last confirmed sighting of a Caspian tiger was in 1970, when one was killed at Uludere, Hakkari in Turkey.
The future sadly looks equally bleak for the Caspian's surviving cousins in Asia and Russia unless something drastic is done to stem the flow of habitat loss and illegal poaching.
4 Mexican Grizzly Bear
Few animals are as charismatic and recognizable as the brown bear. Worshiped as a deity by ancient cultures, and immortalized forever as a child's plaything, the bear is an animal that never fails to stir strong emotions, whether they be adoration or fear.
Such was the case of the Mexican Grizzly Bear, a subspecies of North American brown bear native to the Northern ranges of Mexico and Arizona, the bear captured the imaginations of artists and poets, and at the same time terrified the ranchers who settled the region.
Standing up to 7 feet tall, weighing up to 300 kg and armed with viciously sharp claws and powerful jaws, the Grizzly demanded respect. But, as with the Caspian tiger, its natural prowess was what caused its downfall, as it was hunted and trapped mercilessly by farmers and ranchers who feared for their livestock and by hunters who sought a reputation.
The Grizzly, for all its might and power, couldn't hope to survive the onslaught, and no living specimen has been seen in the region since 1976.
The Mexican Grizzlies more Northern brethren would face the same fate, hunted to extinction in most of its former range, now the Brown bear is absent from the majority of the continental states while it's white furred relative, the Polar bear, has to contend with a rapidly rising temperature. Meanwhile Asia's bear species, the Asiatic Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Panda Bear and smallest of them all, the diminutive Sun Bear are all under significant threat from habitat loss.
3 Pyrenean Ibex
The Pyrenean Ibex was a species of wild mountain goat which inhabited the mountains of Southern France and the Northern Pyrenees. These sure-footed and resilient creatures endured brutal mountain winds and climbed sheer cliff faces to graze and browse on grasses and plants. The male's head was adorned with large, spiral-shaped horns that were used to battle over territory and breeding rights.
The Pyrenean Ibex was subject to massive amounts of hunting during the 19th and 20th centuries, reducing their once wide range to a few remote pockets within the Ordesa National Park in Spain. The Ibex struggled in this last refuge too, finding it difficult to compete with introduced farm animals like sheep and cattle which were overgrazing the land and which outnumbered them. Soon the population dwindled to only one lone female individual, who was named Celia. Celia was monitored closely, but sadly she was killed in January of 2000 by a falling tree.
But, this is not the end of the Ibex story, the tale takes a remarkable turn when, using DNA obtained from Celia the biotech company Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. in conjunction with the Spanish government successfully created a clone of Celia, born to a domestic goat surrogate. Sadly, there was no great revival here, and the cloned Ibex calf survived for only 7 minutes before dying of a lung infection. There would be no second chance for the Pyrenean Ibex.
This was the first attempt to revive an extinct species using cloning technology, as more funding and research is put into the project it could provide a ray of hope to those species which are struggling today, such as the Pyrenean Ibex's surviving relatives, the Gredos ibex, and the Beceite ibex.
2 Western Black Rhinoceros
A day doesn't go by that we aren't reminded of the issues facing Africa's megafauna. Our newsfeeds are filled with stories every week about the poaching of lions, rhinos and elephants so much so that the majority of people have simply begun to tune it out, "how bad of a state can they be in if they're still going on about them after all these years?" I've heard one ignorant person say....It would probably floor that person to know that one subspecies of rhino, one of the largest, most formidable species on Earth was officially wiped from existence in 2011.
You see, the campaigns and cries for help to save the rhino aren't the sounds of a broken record, they are a dying species' swan song.
The Western Black Rhino was last seen alive in 2006 within Cameroon's Northern Province. Five years later it was confirmed dead.
The Black Rhino could weigh up to three tons, charge at 30mph and was armed with a tough, thick hide and an unmistakable nasal horn, capable of reaching 4 feet in length. This Titan was impervious from any natural predator, but it never stood a chance against Mankind's superstitions. It was poached and butchered ruthlessly for its horn which would be used in Chinese traditional medicine, which mistakenly believes that to ingest the ground horn is to inherit the rhino's colossal strength (the horn, in fact, holds no such properties, it is made up of the same substance that coats your fingernails) but the delusion prevailed, and the Western Black Rhino faded into extinction despite dedicated efforts to protect it.
The Western Black rhinos relative in Africa, India and Sumatra face a similar fate, with numbers at an all-time low due to poaching and an ever shrinking habitat.
1 Spix Macaw
Parrots are perhaps the most stunningly beautiful of the bird family, and in a family which contains peacocks, eagles, and birds of paradise, that is saying a lot.
However, a startling number of parrot species have gone extinct since their discovery, with over 20 species disappearing altogether. The most recent to do so is the striking Spix macaw, a brightly coloured blue species of macaw native to Brazil, which was discovered in 1819.
The Spix is smaller than other Macaw species but no less stunning and intelligent. Sadly, this bird faced challenge after challenge following its discovery, from illegal captures for the pet trade to massive amounts of habitat loss and even the introduction of deadly African bees which took over nesting sites, it all culminated in the extinction of this beautiful parrot only 82 years after its discovery.
Although the rainforests of Brazil no longer echo with the calls of the Spix Macaw, it takes first place on this list for a very important reason. Despite being extinct in the wild, 71 birds are kept in captivity. Thanks to a dedicated and pre-emptive captive breeding programme the Spix macaw has been saved from extinction, and there are plans to reintroduce captive specimens back to the wild.
Although the other species on this list are sadly lost forever, the Spix macaw should serve as a beacon of hope, and a reminder that extinction does not have to be inevitable if enough people are willing to take a stand and make a difference.