For hundreds of years man has been the reason why some animals have become extinct. We relentlessly hunt animals to death even when they are protected. Some people poach animals; killing them to gain profit of some kind. (Ex. Elephant’s tusk or a gorilla’s hand.)
Sometimes an animal becomes extinct because it loses its habitat, but that happens because man has moved in and wants their space. We introduce new species into an area to kill a certain predator or to make sure we have fish to catch. Then the new animal takes over and many other species suffer. Pollution and climate change are the major reasons for extinction involving humans to some degree.
Here are ten examples of animals that have been driven to extinction by man:
1. Yangtze River Dolphin
Over 20 million years on the earth, this dolphin is the first of any whale or dolphin to become extinct. It lived in the Yangtze River in China, a fresh water river where the dolphin learned to adapt from the ocean. The last time they were studied was in the 1990s, and at that time, there were only 13 dolphins sighted. This time the study showed zero. Scientists believe that the cause of the dolphins’ extinction were from fishing nets with hooks that would snag the dolphins and drown them.
Also called the horned tortoise, these animals were of the mega fauna species, or animals of great size. This turtle was more than eight feet long. These turtles lived peacefully in Australia, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. About 3,000 years ago, people known as Lapita, moved in and ate the legs of the giant turtle until nothing was left of them. The remains of the leg bones gave scientists a clear picture of why and when these animals became extinct.
3. Golden Toad
This little guy was a bright, shiny orange and would often be on posters to advertise the country where it was discovered – Costa Rica. There used to be thousands of the creatures, but in 1987, scientists counted only two females and seven males. The next year they saw one male, and by 2004, the species was listed as extinct. Weather conditions were given as the reason for the demise of the toad — El Nino to be exact. It caused the weather to be too dry to support the toad.
Out of Africa comes this half horse half zebra. You could tell it apart from regular zebras because it had vivid stripes on the front part of the body, then they started to fade, and there were no stripes on the hindquarters. They became extinct before scientists could even decide what species they were. Their extinction came from man hunting them for their meat, hides, and to preserve grass and feed for domestic animals.
A terrifying looking animal, the Thylacine is sometimes called the Tasmanian wolf or just Tiger because of the stripes on its back. It was native to Australia and New Guinea and was the largest known carnivorous marsupial, growing to nine feet long. One reason why it looked so terrifying is because its jaw would open 120 degrees showing a mouth full of large sharp teeth. The Thylacine became extinct because there were sightings of the tiger killing domesticated livestock. Afterwards bounties were put on the animal, and also dingoes were introduced into the area as a companion hunter for man.
6. The Irish Elk
Sometimes called the Giant Deer, this is the largest deer that has ever lived. Obviously, it was famous for its size; seven feet tall at the shoulders, and its antlers measured 12 feet across from tip to tip. The animal’s remains have been carbon dated back to 5,700 BC. It is believed that the Irish elk was over hunted, which caused its extinction, but some say it was the antlers that restricted the movement of the males through the forested areas.
7. Caspian Tiger
This animal was the third largest of its entire species. This tiger was stocky and very long with strong legs, big wide paws and large claws. It had long, thick fur around its cheeks, and its coloring matched that of the Bengal tiger. During a huge land reclamation program, the Russian government decided to eliminate the Caspian tiger. The Russian army did a good job of exterminating this beautiful animal.
8. Great Auk
These auks were flightless penguins from the Atlantic. They were one of the largest auks standing about 30-34 inches high. They had white and glossy black feathers, and were once seen in huge numbers in the northern frigid areas. Records show that they were hunted to extinction in these places.
9. European Cave Lion
Paintings of this lion have been found in European caves telling stories about hunting practices where people used to hunt lions in teams. Scientists believe this lion species became extinct about ten thousand years ago. Its habitat was across Europe’s northern regions. This was, once again, a very large animal, weighing around 800 lbs. for a full-grown male. There are a number of factors as to what contributed to its extinction. Some say the lion was hunted to extinction. Others believe the prey they lived on became extinct. Still others say humans reduced their territory where they hunted.
10. Dodo Bird
Another flightless bird, but this one was related to pigeons and doves; birds that really do fly. There is a story that goes with the Dodo bird becoming extinct. All Dodos lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Portuguese sailors landed on the shores in 1598. The birds had never been exposed to humans, so they were not afraid of them and greeted the sailors with ignorance. The sailors took this lack of fear as stupidity and so named the bird the Dodo (Portuguese for stupid). Many of the birds were killed by these sailors and the people who came to settle on the island. Wild pigs and dogs were introduced to the island and they, too contributed to the Dodo bird’s extinction. By 1681 there were no dodo birds left on the planet.
Today the Dodo Bird is still remembered as a symbol of the harm mankind can bring to the environment.