Lost Forever: Caribbean Monk Seal

Cms-newyorkzoologicalsociety1910.jpgIts time to look backwards at the animals of the past that couldn’t quite survive into our present. This week we will be looking into the Caribbean Monk Seal (Neomonachus tropcicalis) and what ultimately led to its extinction.
The Caribbean Monk Seal went extinct in 1952 with the last confirmed sighting off Serranilla Bank. These seals used to inhabit the Caribbean Sea and they were the first type of seal to go extinct from human causes.

220px-Caribbean_monk_seals_New_York.jpgThey could be found in the water around rocky or sandy coastline and islands which they used for resting and breeding. Their diet is unknown but was believed to be eels, lobsters, octopus and reef fish.

The only known predators of the Caribbean Monk Seal were sharks and humans. They were hunted for their skins and oil and were also put in danger due to the fishing industry. It was ultimately the tough pressures from humans that led to their extinction.

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Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Great Auk


The Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) was a large, flightless bird that went extinct in 1844 when the last known specimens were killed on the 3rd July at Eldey Island, Iceland. The nearest living relative of the Great Auk is the Razorbill.


Historically, the Great Auk only bred on remote, rocky islands. Young birds fed on plankton, while the adults dived for fish.


Great Auk Painting.preview.jpgGreat Auks were hunted for their feathers, meat, fat and oil. As the birds became more scarce, early conservations believed that the collecting of specimens was necessary to help save the species. Unfortunately, this specimen collecting was what lead to the ultimate demise of the Great Auk.

In remembrance of the errors that early conservationists made, the peer reviewed academic journal of the American Ornithologists Union is named the Auk.

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Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Passenger Pigeon

From a conservation point of view, looking to the past is as important as looking to the future. Reminiscing about the past can help humankind to ensure that the same fate doesn’t happen to other species.

3780971_orig.jpgThis installment of Lost Forever is looking at the decline of the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorious). What’s unique about the downfall of this species is that the Passenger Pigeon was once one of the world’s most abundant bird species. The Passenger Pigeon was once found in the forests of Canada and the USA and they occasionally wandered further south in Mexico and Cuba. This species was nomadic; breeding and foraging in vast flock compromised of millions of birds. They nested in between the months of April and May and were classed as a Full Migrant.


Records suggest that the last wild bird was shot in 1900; while the last captive bird died in 1914 in Cincinnati Zoo. There is no solid evidence about what factor was to blame for the rapid decline of the Passenger Pigeon but there were several at play. The widespread clearance of hardwood trees drastically reduced the food for the pigeons, young birds were taken from the wild and sold, there was excessive shooting of individuals and Newcastle disease could also have been to blame. More than likely the rapid decline was a combination of all these factors interacting with one another to have a dramatic effect of the survival of the Passenger Pigeon.


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Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Steller’s Sea Cow

Stellers-Sea-Cow-Images.jpgSteller’s Sea Cow used to inhabit the shallow, cold waters of the Bering sea around the Commander Islands. The last known population was on Bering Islands in 1741 (which is also when the species was first recorded). Reports state that the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably extinct by 1768.

Hydrodamalis_gigas.jpgMany scientists believe that the hunting of the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably enough to lead the species into extinction. The Sea Cows were hunted for their meat and leather and they were an easily available source of meat for Russian fur hunters.


However, some other scientists argue that it was the hunting of sea otters that lead to the demise of the largest Sirenia species. Sea otters ate sea urchins, the sea urchins ate the kelp that the sea cow also ate. The hunting of sea otters meant that the numbers of sea urchins soared and ultimately meant that the sea cows had less kelp readily available to eat.

More than likely it was a combination of the two factors that ultimately lead to the extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow.

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  • The IUCN Red List
  • Anderson, 1995

Lost Forever. Animals We’ll Never See Again: Thylacine/Tasmanian Tiger

thylacine3.jpgThe last Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine dying at Hobart Zoo in 1936 will probably be remembered by grandparents all over the world, but for future generations it will be another species that has been lost to time.

Thylacines were endemic to Australia but the introduction of domestic dogs onto the mainland meant that they were restricted to the island of Tasmania. Thylacines found their home in open forests and grasslands.

r0_0_1200_675_w1200_h678_fmaxUnfortunately the downfall of the Thylacines came at the hands of humans, as they were considered a threat to sheep and livestock. For this reason they were hunted, trapped and poisoned and fell prey to domestic dogs which were introduced.

The last recorded wild Thylacine was in 1933 which was captured and taken to Hobart Zoo where it died three years later.

Unknown.jpegThere are many other species that are in danger of becoming extinct in our lifetime if we don’t act to soon to conserve them. For more information on which species are close to extinction visit the IUCN Red List.

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