Earth has been home to lots of wonderful wildlife for more than 3 billion years now. Unfortunately, not all species still exist on our planet. Extinct animals are species that have wiped out entirely from the face of the earth. Dozens of species get extinct every year, either due to loss of habitat or extensive hunting and poaching.

We’re not just talking about pre-historic dinosaurs or mammoths. According to the International Union of Conservation of Nature, almost 905 species have gone extinct since 1750. Out of these, 467 species of wildlife were declared extinct in the last decade. This means we lose 10% of species every decade. So why are animals getting extinct at such a fast rate?

Animals become extinct for two main reasons- the first is climate change and the second is the intervention of humans. Tons of species have not been able to adapt to the change in climate, resulting in the decline of their population, and eventually their extinction. Humans have been a major cause of extinction of species for the past few million years. Be it excessive hunting for delicacies, rapid cutting down of forests, or population growth, humans have had a drastic impact on wildlife.

Here is a list of 15 extinct animals with pictures, whose stories ended a little too soon.

1. Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (2019)

Yangtze Giant softshell turtle is the biggest freshwater turtle and one of the rarest species on our planet. Belonging to southern China and Northern Vietnam, these softshell turtles are considered to be the living representative of the Great Turtle God. In 2013, scientists declared that only 3 turtles, one female, and two males are left on the entire planet. However, two of them died in 2016 and 2019, making Yangtze Giant softshell turtle functionally extinct in the year 2019.

Why did they go extinct?

The main reasons for the extinction of the Yangtze Giant Softshell turtle were the loss of habitat and extensive killing of the species by humans. Their meat was considered a delicacy in certain tribes, and their bones were used to make certain medicines. Industrialization in Vietnam, and excessive construction of dams, led to the flooding of their natural habitat. 

2. Pinta Giant Tortoise (2012)

One of the largest tortoises in the world, the Pinta giant tortoise were native to Ecuador’s Pinta island. Pinta island tortoises have extremely long necks, which they can stretch above the surface of the ocean, making them capable of easily traveling long distances. They can even go for a very long time without food and freshwater.

Pinta Giant Tortoises were assumed to be extinct by the mid 20th century until a single male was discovered on an island in 1971. The Galapagos National Park named him ‘Lonesome George’ and tried to save the species for more than three decades. Unfortunately, the last survivor of Pinta Giant Tortoise, Lonesome George died on June 24, 2012.

Why did they go extinct?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pinta Giant Tortoises were hunted in great numbers by pirates and sailors. They were primarily hunted for fresh meat. When hunting was made illegal by the government in the 1950s, many herd animals used to overgraze their lands, thus leading to the loss of their natural habitat.

3. West African Black Rhino (2011)

These genetically different rhinoceros subspecies were widespread in the savanna of Sub-saharan Africa. West African Black Rhino is a subspecies of the Black Rhino, who were nocturnal animals. These bulky creatures were fast runners, and could run at a speed of 55kph, and can quickly change their direction. Even though they were officially declared extinct by the IUCN in 2011, no individual West African Black rhino was seen after the year 2006.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the early issues faced by the West African Black Rhino was the loss of their natural habitat. As people started settling, they cleared the rhino’s native habitat to build farms and houses. This change of habitat killed several rhinos. Another primary reason for the extinction of the species is due to poaching or illegal hunting. Hunters killed rhinos in large numbers as a sport and for their invaluable horns. Black Rhino’s horn was used in Chinese medicine and also as a decorative piece.

4. Chinese Paddlefish (2010)

One of the world’s largest fish, the Chinese Paddlefish was native to China’s Yangtze River. The paddlefish could reach up to 23 feet in length and had been around for at least 200 million years. They are believed to have survived unimaginable changes, like the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs and several other marine species. 

The Chinese paddlefish was last seen in 1995 until an adult paddlefish was accidentally captured in 2003. Researchers put the fish back in the water with a location tag, in an attempt to find other individuals of the species. However, all signals were lost after a few hours. The Chinese Paddlefish was officially declared extinct in 2010.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the reasons for the extinction of the Chinese Paddlefish is overfishing by sailors and fishermen. Another reason, and most probably a primary one is the fragmentation of their habitat with the construction of the Gezhouba Dam in 1981. The dam cut off the paddlefish from their only spawning grounds.

5. Caribbean Monk Seal (2008)

Caribbean Monk Seal is the first species of seal to go extinct as a direct result of human activities. Native to the Caribbean, the monk seal had a relatively large and robust body. The Caribbean Monk seal was last spotted in the year 1952. After an exhaustive search for the seals for almost five years, the National Marine Fisheries Service confirmed their extinction on October 28, 2008.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the major factors contributing to the extinction of the Caribbean Monk Seal is the non-stop poaching and killing of seals to obtain oil held in their blubber. Another factor responsible for their extinction is the overfishing of reefs that sustained the monk seals. With no fish or mollusks to feed on, many Caribbean Monk seals died due to starvation.

6. Baiji Dolphin (2006)

These freshwater dolphins are one of the first dolphin species to go extinct in the modern age. Also known as the Chinese river dolphin, Baiji has been around for more than 20 million years. They have become extinct as a direct result of human activities. There was a rapid demise in the numbers of these white dolphins, from over 6,000 dolphins in 1950 to only 13 individuals left by 1997. After an intense and carefully managed survey of the entire Yangtse river, researchers declared Baiji dolphins extinct in December 2006.

Why did they go extinct?

The Baiji dolphin was driven to extinction by human activities. One of the main factors for their extinction is the fishnet and hooks, that dragged down the dolphins and drowned them. Another factor that contributed to their extinction is non-stop hunting during the industrialization process. Baijis were hunted for meat, oil, as well as leather. Humans also heavily contaminated the river with oils, plastics, and sewage ensuring the natural Yangtse habitat has gone forever. 

7. Po’ouli (2004)

One of the Earth’s rarest birds, Po’ouli was native to the island of Maui in Hawaii. They were first discovered in 1973 and were listed as an endangered species. In the last 30 years, their number fell from a few dozen to only 3. Since then various efforts were made to catch the birds, and enable them to breed in captivity. Researchers did find one male Po’ouli bird and he was safely kept in captivity. He died a few months later due to age-related issues on November 26, 2004. Researchers were never able to find the other two remaining birds and they were declared extinct in 2004. 

Why did they go extinct?

One of the major factors for the dramatic population decline of the Po’ouli is the loss of their natural habitat. As humans started settling in and cut down forests for homes and farms, Po’ouli lost their native habitat. Another factor that led to their extinction was their declining food source. Po’ouli depended on tree snails as their primary diet. A sharp decline in food led to starvation and death for Po’ouli birds. Mosquito-born diseases and predation by pigs and cats are some other reasons that contributed to their extinction.

8. Golden Toad (2004)

Golden toads were bright colored small amphibians that were once abundant in the cloud forest of Costa Rica. Also known as the ‘orange toad’ it was first discovered in 1966. In 1987, 1500 golden toads were found scattered around the forest. In 1988, researchers found 10 toads in the area. In 1989, the researchers found just one toad, a bright orange male, in the same area. It was the last golden toad they saw. Golden toads saw a 99% decline in a single year. In 2004, researchers officially declared golden toads as extinct.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the factors that contributed to the extinction of golden toads is global warming. As the greenhouse gases increased in the air, the atmosphere of the Costa Rican forest became hotter and drier. This led to fatal skin disease and the death of these amphibians. Another major factor that leads to their extinction is the chytrid fungus leading to the fatal disease chytridiomycosis.

9. Arabian Ostrich (1966)

Also known as the Syrian ostrich, Arabian ostriches were native to the Arabian Peninsula until the 19th century. They were also found in Madagascar and India when they were connected to Australia. The Arabian Ostriches were last seen around the middle of the 20th century. They were officially declared extinct in 1966.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the reasons for the extinction of the Arabian Ostrich was the introduction of firearms and motor vehicles. Earlier hunters used bows and arrows to hunt down birds, which enabled ostriches to escape easily in groups. Excessive hunting and killing of Arabian ostriches led to the extinction of the species. 

10. Toolache Wallaby (1943)

Also known as Grey’s Wallaby, they are one of the most elegant, swift, and graceful species of the Kangaroo. These furry animals had alternating bands of darker and lighter grey along the back. After the European occupation, wallaby could only survive for the next 85 years. The conservation efforts to protect the Toolache Wallaby was started in the 1920s, but it was too late. They were last spotted in the wild in 1924, and the last known wallaby was survived in captivity in 1939. After extensive research conducted by scientists, Toolache Wallaby was declared extinct officially in 1943.

Why did they go extinct?

A combination of several factors caused the decline and eventual extinction of Toolache Wallaby. The swamps were an important part of their habitat, and once they were cleared out for vegetation, it led to the destruction of the Wallaby’s habitat. They were also hunted for fur as well as for sporting purposes. The poaching and destruction of native habitat were the reasons for their extinction.

11. Tasmanian Tiger (1936)

One of the largest known carnivorous marsupials evolved around 4 million years ago. Also known as the thylacine, the species is a cross between a large cat, a wolf, and a fox. One of the first pieces of evidence of their existence date back to 1000BC. It is known as a Tasmanian tiger because they have stripes on their back. The last known Tasmanian tiger was captured in 1933 and died in captivity in 1936. They were officially declared extinct in the year 1936.

Why did they go extinct?

One of the major factors contributing to the extinction of Tasmanian tigers was excessive hunting by the British settlers in Tasmania. Poaching by hunters and predation by other animals is one of the reasons for their extinction. The loss of their natural habitat and introduced disease is another factor leading to the extinction of Tasmanian tigers.

12. Passenger Pigeon (1914)

These migratory pigeons were native to North America with bronze feathers and black spots on the wings. They were the most abundant bird in the whole world, throughout the 19th century. These migration birds took hours to cross a single spot and traveled in large numbers. The population of passenger pigeons crashed from billions to zero in just 50 years. The decline of the species started in 1870, and the last passenger pigeon died in captivity on September 1, 1914.

Why did they go extinct?

Passenger pigeons became extinct in the 20th century, because of the widespread hunting of birds. These pigeons were considered a good source of meat, and people hunted them in thousands every year. Additionally, some farmers believed that they are not good for agriculture, and shot them dead. As a combination of these two factors, passenger pigeons are now extinct for more than 100 years.

13. Quagga (1883)

Quagga is a subspecies of the plain zebra that were native to South Africa. These strikingly attractive creatures are half zebras half horse, that had been around for 200,000 years. They were found in large herds and were irregularly banded. Quaggas became extinct in the 19th century, with the last individual dying in the London Zoo on 12th August 1883 making them extinct for more than 100 years now.

Why did they go extinct?

Quaggas were hunted in large numbers by the Dutches in South Africa. Hunters poached them for their meet and as a hunting sport. There have also been pieces of evidence of planned extermination of quaggas by colonists. This was because they acted as competition for their domesticated cattle for forage. Due to the combination of these factors, quaggas became extinct in the 19th century. 

14. Great Auk (1850)

One of the giant seabirds, the Great Auk is a flightless bird, that resembles the modern-day penguin. They were native to the North Atlantic coasts, and always bred in colonies. They started seeing a decline in their population in the early 1800s. The last pair of Great Auks were killed in Iceland on 3 July 1844 on the request of a merchant. Ther were officially declared extinct in the year 1850.

Why did they go extinct?

Few factors in combination led to the extinction of Great Auks. they were flightless and defenseless birds that were killed by hunters in large numbers for food and fishing bait. They were also hunted for their feathers which the Europeans used for their pillows. Once the Great Auks became rare, they became prized possessions for the rich Europeans, which further led to the collection of their eggs and killing the bird. Around 80 Great Auks and their eggs lay preserved in the museums.

15. Moa (1400)

One of the largest species of flightless birds, Moa were native to New Zealand. There were around 2.5 million of these birds in 1200. They were the only wingless birds found on the planet. These ostrich-like birds were quick runners that defended themselves by kicking their predator. Their extinction occurred 200 years after human settlement. They became extinct somewhere around the year 1400.

Why did they go extinct?

The major cause of the extinction of Moa were human activities. Scientists believed that the homo sapiens hunted moas for meat as well as to protect themselves from these large birds.

Hundreds of species of both fauna and flora are listed every year in the endangered list of the IUCN. In the last year, almost two dozen wildlife were declared extinct from the face of the earth. Humans have affected nature for thousands of years now. It’s high time that we analyze our activities and protect nature and wildlife around us, to protect the balance of our planet.