Top 10 AMAZING ANIMALS That Humans Hunted Into Extinction
In this installment, we are going to look at the Top 10 animals put into extinction because of human beings. From the Dodo bird, to the western black rhino, these animals would probably still be around had it not been for human intervention.
The Passenger Pigeon
Hitting the #1 spot, with the largest bird population in the United States, consisting of 3 to 5 billion birds. One account suggests a flock that took 14 hours to pass in the sky, consisting of up to 3.5 billion birds. If accurate, that would be nearly the entire estimated population of the birds. The Native Americans used them as sources of food for generations and they were the initial main predator of the pigeon. As settlers moved west from the original colonies, they began to de-forest nesting lands belonging to the birds, thus driving them to flock in fields. The main part of Passenger pigeon killing started about this time as retaliation by farmers for crop damage and for their meat. There was a slow decline between 1800 and 1870, but the main catastrophic decline happened between 1870 and 1900, when the commercialization of pigeon meat as a less cheap meat for slaves and the poor resulting in hunting on a massive scale. Michigan was really the only state that tried to protect the bird and the last known Passenger Pigeon, a female, died in 1914 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Do-Do Bird
These flightless birds once thrived on the Isle of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Madagascar. The island had no natural predators for the birds and so over time they lost their ability to fly, presumably through the evolutionary process. The first recorded mention of these birds was by Dutch sailors in 1598. The sailors wrote of how dumb the birds were because it had no natural fear of humans, thus leading the sailors to dub this bird the Dodo Bird. The bird was hunted to extinction by sailors for its meat, which wasn’t even very tasty. Unfortunately, invasive species that other humans brought to the island and habitat destruction finished the birds off in less than a century after their discovery.
The Heath Hen
Closely related to the Prairie chickens of the North American Plains, the Heath hen dominated the eastern American coastline from Southern New Hampshire to Virginia. During Colonial American times, the birds popularity grew and some speculations have been made that the first American Thanksgiving Dinner consisted of these birds and not the American Wild Turkey. Colonists hunted these birds extensively and soon the bird became known as the poor-man’s food because it was so cheap and plentiful. Succumbing to hunting pressure, the population quickly dwindled as of the late 1800’s. In the early 1900’s, there were guidelines enacted to help preserve the birds, but the efforts were too late. Poaching, feral animals, disease, fire and even bad weather conditions decimated what little was left of the population.
Distant relative to the modern bovine, Aurochs once ranged the European, Asian and Indian continents. These largely aggressive beasts roamed in herds of around 30 and weighed anywhere from 680 to 910 kilograms or 1500 to 2000 pounds, and measured around 150 to 180 centimeters or 61 to 71 inches in height. Ancient civilizations used these creatures for sporting events and battle because of their massive size and ferocious personality. The cause for extinction was the unrestricted over hunting and habitat destruction by humans, as well as diseases brought in from domesticated bovine. Late steps were taken to try and save the animals by the Royal families by outlawing the hunting of them, but it was too late. The last known female died in 1627 in Poland.
The Caribbean Monk Seal
One of the more recent extinction events that has happened in time, is with the Caribbean Monk Seal. The Caribbean Monk Seal is approximately 200 to 240 centimeters or 78 to 95 inches long and has black furred pups instead of white furred pups like normal seals. Starting around the 1600’s, Monk Seals were being hunted extensively for their rich oil deposits and furs. The hunting continued throughout the 1700 and 1800’s and it wasn’t until the 1850’s that there was no longer sufficient enough numbers of them to hunt. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much done to save the poor creatures. By the time they were put on the endangered species list in 1967, no one had seen or reported on them since 1952. In 2003 a scientific expedition was led to find any remaining seals. The team looked for 5 years with no avail and in 2008, the scientific community officially declared them extinct.
Steller’s Sea Cow
In 1741, the German naturalist Georg Steller accompanied Vitus Bering on his discovery of the North Pacific Ocean. While their party was shipwrecked on the Bering Islands for 9 months, Steller discovered a species of ocean mammal that he had never seen before. He observed the animals as being docile and grazing on the kelp like cows. Their skin was a dark brown and was rough like the bark of a tree. They had short stubby front arms that they used to walk along the shallow water of the ocean. Reaching a length of 9 to 10 meters or 29 to 32 feet and weighing a whopping 10 metric tons or 22,000 pounds, these creatures were the gigantic relatives of the modern warm-water manatees. Once hunters and sailors found out how tasty the meat was and how useful the skins and fats were, they started killing sea cows at a rate of 7 times the normal amount. It only took humans 27 years after the discovery of the Stellers Sea Cows to totally annihilate them. The last surviving Steller Sea Cow was killed around 1768.
The Great Auk
These flightless sea birds originally were found in the North Atlantic perched on rocky outcroppings along the sea coast. The Great Auk only produced one egg per year and the parents took turns incubating it. The body of the Great Auk was approximately 30 inches or 75centimeters in length and they had very short wings. On land, these birds were vulnerable to humans as they were awkward and clumsy. Once humans found that they were an easy meal and that their down was useful for keeping warm, the great Auk disappeared fast. There are accounts of fisherman herding them up in wooden planks by the hundreds onto waiting ships to be slaughtered for food, their down, oils and fishing bait. The last surviving pair were killed in June of 1844 at Eldray Island, Iceland for an exhibit in a museum.
The Giant Moa
These relatives of the Australian Emus lived on the Island of New Zealand around 1280 A.D. Giant Moa stand approximately 3.6 meters or 12 feet in height with its neck stretched out and have feathers similar to Emus. There only main predator was the now extinct Haast Eagle, until the Polynesians settled the island and started hunting them for food and tools. Once humans arrived on the island, they started to deplete their natural habitat and food sources. Aggressive hunting of Moa for food meant the Moa had little or no chance left for survival. Scientists say that the total extinction event only took approximately 100 years before there were no Moa left. The Moa are thought to be long extinct, but on occasion there have been anonymous reports of sightings that are discarded as pseudoscientific and proven false.
The Western Black Rhino
The Western Black Rhinoceros is thought to emerged onto the savannahs approximately 7 to 8 million years ago and survived as a top mammal on the food chain for millions of years. The Western Black Rhino was heavily hunted during the beginning of the 20th century for its tusks, but the population was restored after preservation effects took place in the 1930’s. As protection efforts decreased, so did the Rhinoceros population. By the 1980’s, they numbered only in the hundreds. Poaching continued and by the year 2000 there was only an estimated 10 Western Black Rhinoceros’s left. In 2001 there were believed to be 5 left, but a 2006 survey found that the information was inaccurate and that at that time there were none to be reported. In 2013, they were officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
This beautiful antelope has been talked about and worshipped as a sacrificial offering and a food source for thousands of years. They roamed in herds as large as 200 across the northern African continent. Even mummified remains of their horns are found in Egyptian tombs, proving their importance in religion and sustenance. Bubal Hartebeest’s were still widespread across Tunisia as late as 1870, but hunting dwindled their population to almost nothing, with the last beast being reportedly shot in Tunisia in 1902 and the last in Algeria in the 1930’s.