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A great number of animals have become extinct over the last several centuries, mostly by hunters. I wonder how different our lives would be if they had survived. Here are 10 of those creatures no longer with us.
10. Hunters most likely eliminated the elephant bird. These were enormous birds that had trouble with flying and were found mostly on the isolated island of Madagascar. When they were left to themselves, they lived in virtual bliss and laid their eggs out in the open. But with that, they were easy prey for dinner. Man and other predators hunted them down, eating both the birds and their eggs. They went extinct within the last 1,000 years. Recently an elephant bird’s footlong egg, with a diameter of nearly 9 inches, was auctioned off for just over $100,000. It was intact and contained the skeletal remains of the unborn bird.
9.The Great Auk was another one of those flightless birds that died out in the mid-1800s. They were about 30 inches tall with short wings that helped them swim under water. And they were known as being utterly defenseless. They were killed by hunters for food and bait. They were also captured by sailors who often slaughtered them while moving them into a ship’s holding areas. The last of the Great Auks was seen in England when it was caught by three men. They tied it up and kept it alive for three days, but when a big storm hit the area, they were convinced the auk was a witch that caused the storm. So they killed it. I guess man never knows the boundaries of his brilliance…. Or how far it takes to get there.
8.The Meiolania (My-O-law-nee-uh) was a basil turtle was last populated in areas of New Caledonia. It died out some 2,000 years ago. This was NOT a turtle that we can all relate to now. This turtle was more than 8-feet long…that’s A LOT of turtle. But people began moving into its sanctuaries and began eating the legs of the turtle. After about 300 years of their first human contact, they were gone.
7.In 1741, German naturalist Georg Steller discovered sea cows, which made their homes along the shores of the Komandor Islands in the Bering Sea. These creatures were much, much bigger than manatees – reaching a length of more than 30 feet and weighing about 22,000 pounds. They would float along the waters and could not submerge well, making them easy targets for the harpoons of Russian seal hunters. Less than 30 years after they were discovered, they became extinct.
6. The Eurasian Auroch, an ancestor of the modern cattle, was a large, wild ox that roamed across Europe, Siberia and Central Asia. It stood 6 feet high at the shoulder and had forward-curving horns. Back in ancient Rome, they were battled in sport in the arenas. By the 13th century, their populations had declined greatly and the rights to hunt them were restricted to royal households. The last known Auroch, a female, died in 1627 in Poland from natural causes.
5. Ancient Egyptians used to use the Bubal Hartebeests for sacrificial purposes. European hunters wiped out most of them through hunting and sport in the 19th century. Herds of them were also massacred by the colonial military after the French conquest of Algeria. The last of them was shot to death in Morocco in 1925.
4. Another large, flightless bird – the Genyornis Newtoni – once roamed the Australian outback and was over 6 feet tall and weighed 500 pounds. Probably no wonder it couldn’t fly. But its population started dying out thousands of years ago when humans collected and ate its eggs.
3. If you’ve ever watched the cartoon The Flintstones – Yabba Dabba Doo — you probably got a look at a Dodo bird and thought it was merely fiction because, well, it’s a cartoon. But way back – not quite in the Flintstone’s time – the Dodo bird actually existed, being most bountiful on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They were much larger than turkeys and weighed about 50 pounds. They had a large head and their plumage was typically blue-gray. They were doing just fine until Portuguese sailors discovered them around 1507 and began killing them for their meat. Other animals came along later and feasted on the birds and their eggs. The last Dodo was killed in 1681. But, as a side note, scientists have discovered a well-preserved Dodo skeleton and are working with DNA samples to possibly bring the Dodo back.
2. A bill to save the North American Health Hen from extinction was passed through the Legislature in 1791. Unfortunately, that failed to save the hen. At one time, the hens were so plentiful that their meat was considered a “poor man’s” food. By the mid-1890s, their population dwindled to less than 100. In 1908, a health hen reserve was introduced and their numbers grew to more than 2,000, but a fire undid all of that work, and only a few survived. The last health hen – a male – died in 1932.
1. In the early 1800s, the Passenger Pigeon had a huge population, well in excess of a billion. One recorded breeding colony in Wisconsin in 1871 was 125 miles long and between six and eight miles wide. It covered most of the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin! But they were hunted in huge numbers for their meat. In Michigan, in 1878, about 50,000 birds were killed every day for about 5 months. And the last of a surviving flock of 250,000 birds was killed in a single day in 1896 by a group of hunters. The last of the birds, which was being held at the Cincinnati Zoo, died in 1914.
That’s all for today. If you can do something to prevent animals from becoming extinct, then you’re making a difference. As my boss at Knowable said regarding this story, it’s important to learn from our history so we can help protect animals that are currently at risk. Don’t forget to like us and be sure to subscribe for more stories like this. Get addicted to the good stuff.