Threats of our Diversity

What did these extinct animals mean to us?

Vivian Hua, Copy Editor

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With society becoming more futuristic and technology based, what happens to those that are bred for the past?
Today, animals are becoming extinct with considerable speed due to various reasons. Scientists are now calling this a mass extinction event, and it is the first in human history. Yet, none of it would be occurring without the intervention of humans.
Take the Western Black Rhinoceros, for example. What was once a wild animal of Africa has been killed off due to poaching.
“[The Western Black Rhino] once roamed sub-Saharan Africa, but fell victim to poaching. Its population was in the hundreds in 1980, fell to 10 by 2000, and just five a year later. Surveys in 2006 failed to locate any and it was declared extinct in 2011,” the Telegraph clarifies.
While they were still roaming the earth, the Western Black Rhino had many unexpected characteristics. To illustrate, these rhinos had terribly poor eyesight and could see no more than 98 feet away, but they evened it out with their speed, sense of smell, and hearing. Even with their big and bulky bodies, some weighing up to 3,000 pounds, these rhinos could reach speeds at a maximum of 34 miles per hour. Despite these velocities, they were able to change direction surprisingly quickly and run straight through scrub and bushes.
The constant poaching of rhinos has been driving the numbers of all rhinoceros species at an all-time low. The Javan, Sumatran, and black rhinos are currently critically endangered, the Indian rhino is considered vulnerable, while the white rhino is classified as near threatened.
The po’ouli is yet another animal that has died out. Before it went extinct, it was Hawaii’s insect-eating forest bird. The po’ouli foraged bark, moss, and lichens in order to prey on native tree snails. This bird was considered special and important since it was the only Hawaiian forest bird known to consume these tree snails. Now that this songbird is completely extinct, how will the population of these tree snails be limited and kept under control?
“Also known as the black-faced honeycreeper, [the po’ouli is] a Hawaiian songbird endemic to Maui that was the only known member of its genus,” Mother Nature Network elucidates. “None have been seen in the wild since 2004 — the same year the last captive poʻouli passed away.”
Another devastating detail is that the po’ouli wasn’t the only bird that died out recently; two Brazilian songbirds are now gone as well: the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner.
The Alagoas Foliage-gleaner was discovered in 1975 and was one of Brazil’s rarest birds. Little has been known about them since they’re only found in two regions worldwide: Murici in Alagoas and Serra do Urubu in Pernambuco, both in northeast Brazil, according to Wildscreen Arkive.
“No Cryptic Treehunters have been seen since 2007, and although a few Alagoas foliage-gleaners were found in the wild as recently as 2008, the last confirmed sighting was in 2011,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Even with the argument that extinction is natural for evolution, the rate of which animals today are disappearing is regarded as alarming. If certain animals die out, the population of their prey will exponentially increase and their predators will be forced to feed on other prey, declining those populations.
“As scientists calculated in a 2015 study, the average rate of extinctions over the past century is now 114 times higher than the historical ‘background’ extinction rate,” Mother Nature Network provides.
“Too many species are on the verge of disappearing forever, illustrating the extensive damage our own species has wrought on the ecosystems that sustain us. At the same time, however, each of those struggling species represents an opportunity for us to atone for past mistakes, prove that humans can be good stewards of wildlife and preserve our natural heritage for future generations. It won’t be easy to undo the damage already wrought by mass extinctions, but thankfully we still have time to intervene before things get even worse,” concludes Mother Nature Network.
For society to able to call earth diverse, we must prevent any more animals from being wiped out because of our actions. Society should work together to stop deforestation, poaching, and keeping our environment clean.