Depending on the timescale used there are literally hundreds of species of recently extinct animals.
Many of these extinctions are due in large part to human activity. This can take the form of direct interference – such as poaching – and indirect interference – such as habitat destruction.
Below we dig into 8 incredible species and sub-species that have become extinct in the last 150 years.
What does ‘extinct’ mean?
The term ‘extinct‘ refers to a particular animal or plant species having died out, and there being no more individuals alive anywhere in the world. Whilst extinction can be a natural part of evolution, it is also a phenomenon that is greatly enhanced and sped up by human activity.
Splendid Poison Frog
Estimated extinction date: 2020
In 2020, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) declared that the splendid poison frog was extinct. Sadly, that makes the splendid poison frog one of the most recently extinct animals on the planet.
The small red frog, a species of poison dart frog, lived in the neo-tropical forests of Panama in the mountain ranges adjacent to Costa Rica. Common names of the splendid poison frog in Spanish are Rana venenosa and Sapito venenoso.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the cause of the extinction was a fungal outbreak in 1996.
Estimated extinction date: …
The Spix’s macaw is a recently extinct animal from near the Rio São Francisco in Bahia, Brazil. In 2019, the bird known as the “Little Blue Macaw” because of its vibrant blue feathers was declared extinct in the wild. Fortunately, experts have documented about 160 Spix’s macaws in captivity. Scientists and the Brazilian government are working on a planned release of the parrots to the wild in 2021.
The species was popularized in 2011 when the animated movie “Rio” depicted a cartoon characterization of the breed. Early scientists named the species for the German naturalist who documented them in 1819.
Habitat destruction and illegal trapping and trade are what caused the wild Spix’s macaw’s demise.
Northern White Rhinoceros
Estimated extinction date: 2018
The case for northern white rhinoceros, which are extinct in the wild, is not as hopeful as that of the Spix’s macaw. That is because the last two living northern white rhinoceros are both females. As such, they are in captivity and under armed guard at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. When the last male died there in 2018, the scientific community deemed them recently extinct animals.
Northern white rhinos inhabited parts of Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Uganda and are a subspecies of white rhinoceros. Attempts to impregnate the two females with sperm from other white rhino subspecies have been unsuccessful, although zoologists continue to try other fertilization techniques as well as stem cell technology.
The two females located at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy may be the only living members of an extinct species that you can visit in person.
Northern white rhinoceros were poached to extinction for their horn, used in traditional Chinese medicine, and believed to have healing properties. According to a recent National Geographic article, there are no proven medical benefits of rhinoceros horns in humans. Unfortunately, rhinos are poached in animal preserves, and that endangers even protected rhinoceros populations.
Estimated extinction date: 2017
In 2017 the IUCN declared the baiji critically endangered. The long-nosed river dolphin is also known as the Yangtze River dolphin, as its habitat is China’s Yangtze River. The last documented sighting of the baiji was in 2002, although Baiji Foundation scientists traveled over 3,200 km up the Yangtze River to seek them out in 2006. Their expedition was unsuccessful, and the foundation’s ensuing report stated that the baiji was functionally instinct.
The recently extinct animal is the first dolphin species driven to extinction by humans, says Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Dams and human water management for shipping lanes and other transportation, pollution, and overfishing have caused the creature’s downfall.
Estimated extinction date: 2000
The Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of the Spanish ibex, is one more recently extinct animals. The ibex, native to the Pyrenees Mountains on France and Spain’s border, was declared extinct in 2000. During medieval times, the Pyrenean ibex was abundant, but their population decreased due to hunting.
More recently, the ibex’s numbers dwindled as a result of disease and the inability to compete with livestock and wild chamois for food. Its diet consisted of the meager grass, herbs, and lichens found in rocky, mountainous climes. In 2003, scientists announced that the first attempt to clone the Pyrenean ibex had failed.
Western Black Rhinoceros
Estimated extinction date: 2006
The scarcest of the three black rhino subspecies, the western black rhino, was recognized by the IUCN as extinct in 2011. The recently extinct animal was once widespread on central Africa’s savannahs and shrublands, but the population began a steep decline due to poaching. The last western black rhinoceros was sighted in 2006, and none are known to be held in captivity.
As previously mentioned about northern white rhinoceros, illegal animal parts traffickers poached the recently extinct animals to extinction for their horn, erroneously believed to have medicinal effects.
Estimated extinction date: 1914
Although the passenger pigeon went extinct over 100 years ago, you could say that it is one of the recently extinct animals in relation to the earth’s age. The passenger pigeon’s abundant numbers made the species seem ineradicable, but it became the poster child of animal conservationist groups after its demise. Most ecologists estimate that passenger pigeons numbered in the millions when Europeans began settling North America. Eyewitnesses reported that skies would darken when flocks flew overhead on sunny days.
Passenger pigeons vanished after farmers cleared their habitat and hunters netted, shot and poisoned them to the point of extinction. The extermination of the passenger pigeon was part of the motivation for the birth of 20th century conservation. The last known bird died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
Estimated extinction date: 1883
Another of the relatively recently extinct animals is the quagga. The odd-looking animal resembled a cross between a stout pony and a zebra. With the zebra’s dazzling stripes across its head, mane, and neck, and the chestnut colouring of a pony or horse throughout the rest of its body, the quagga was hunted to extinction in the late 1800s by European settlers.
The somewhat recently extinct animal was native to South Africa and was a subspecies of the plains zebra. Named by the African tribe of Hottentots for its distinctive ‘kwa-ha-ha’ call, quagga is an onomatopoeia. The last animal died in the Amsterdam Zoo in 1883.
Interestingly, scientists of the Quagga Project are using selective breeding of zebras in an attempt to revive the extinct quagga.
That completes our list of recently extinct animals. What did you think – any other animals we should add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!