Top 10 Animals That Are Now Extinct Because of Humans
VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Script written by Shane Fraser.
Unfortunately, there have been many species extinctions caused by humans. Whether they were animals hunted to extinction like the Quagga, the Western Black Rhinoceros or the Steller's Sea Cow, or made extinct by habitat loss like the Javan Tiger, these animals went from endangered species to extinct species – because of us. WatchMojo counts down ten animals driven to extinction by humans.
Special thanks to our users mcelite14 and Ostin Power for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Human-Caused%20Extinctions
Script written by Shane Fraser.
Top 10 Animals That Are Extinct Because of Humans
God giveth and man taketh away. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 animals that are now extinct because of humans.
For this list, we’re looking at animals that are now extinct primarily by human cause. This means that the animals have had to have been officially declared extinct, and that their extinction has to be a result of human intervention.
The quagga was a uniquely patterned subspecies of zebra. With the front half looking like a zebra, and the back half looking like a horse, the quagga was a prized attraction for natives on the African plains, who hunted the quagga for its skin and sometimes for meat. When Dutch settlers colonized the area, the quagga was considered more a pest than a prize, and it was hunted to reduce grazing competition with their own livestock. The quagga, once roaming in herds of hundreds, was decimated by the 1850s, and by 1878 the last wild quagga died. The last captive specimen died in the Natura Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam in 1883.
#9: Javan Tiger
Three tiger subspecies became extinct within the last eighty years, and the Javan tiger is among them. Formally found in Java- the most populated island in Indonesia- the tiger was widespread on the island at the turn of the 20th century until a human population explosion resulted in loss of habitat that caused a massive decline. In the 1930s, almost a quarter of Java was in forest, but by the mid ‘70s, forests accounted for less than ten percent of the island. Mass killings by hunters and soldiers further whittled the population down, and by 1980 only a handful of tigers remained. The last known Javan tiger was killed in 1984.
#8: Falkland Islands Wolf
Without any predators to instil cautiousness, the small fox-like wolves were sitting ducks for the first human settlers on the island. The only land-mammal native to the Falkand Islands, the wolves had no natural fear of humans and nowhere to hide if they did. With little resistance, the wolves were hunted indiscriminately for everything from fur, livestock safety, and just plain fun. By the time Charles Darwin arrived on the island during in 1833, he noted the rarity of the wolves and predicted their demise within a few years. Sure enough, in 1876 the Falkland Islands wolf was extinct.
#7: Steller’s Sea Cow
As the largest kind of Sirenia in history, the Steller’s sea cow was a conspicuous staple of North Pacific marine life. Discovered by zoologist Georg Wilhelm Steller in 1741, the sea cow was not known for its speed, so as a result, its slowness meant it was easily hunted by European sailors for its meat, skin, fat, and oil. The sea cow had already been hunted centuries prior by aboriginals, meaning that only a single small population remained around the Commander Islands. By 1768, the population was entirely destroyed, and no verified sightings of the sea cow appeared after. Thus, within 27 years of European's first laying eyes on it, the Steller’s sea cow was officially extinct.
#6: Atlas Bear
Used in gladiator events in Roman times, the atlas bear was a large formidable carnivore and the only bear endemic to modern Africa. The Roman Empire was largely responsible for the bear’s decline, as thousands were captured and ritualistically killed in baiting and fighting competitions. Following the fall of the empire and the advent of firearms, the bears were overhunted and driven to small fragmented populations in the Atlas Mountains. They became a rare and sought-after item for collectors, with many being captured for zoos and fairs, which further atrophied the population. The bears fell to human greed, and the last individual was killed in 1870.
#5: Great Auk
The great auk was a medium-sized flightless bird resembling a penguin. It occupied the entire expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean, living in the coastal waters from the northeastern U.S. to northern Spain. Being a plump, sedentary animal, which bred on commonly navigated islands, the great auk was a practical and plentiful food source for Native American cultures and North Atlantic travelers. However, the consumption of the auks as well as the hunting of the bird for its down feathers outnumbered its reproduction rates, and soon there was an existential emergency. Naturalists tried but failed to save the species, and the last confirmed specimens were shot in 1844. It was declared extinct in 1852.
Also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, the thylacine is a now-mythic creature that was once very much real. As a large carnivorous marsupial, the thylacine was Australia’s top predator for thousands of years before becoming extinct on the mainland, possibly due to competition with humans and dingoes. The tiger thrived on Tasmania, however, until Europeans settled the island and declared the rather harmless marsupial a pest. Bounty programs were set in place that destroyed thousands of thylacines, and by 1930 they were extinct in the wild—though there have been thousands of unconfirmed reports in the years since, including several convincing videos. The last known thylacine died in the Hobart zoo in 1936.
#3: Caribbean Monk Seal
Named for the folds on its head that resembled a monk’s hood, the Caribbean monk seal was extremely common in the West Indies during the 17th century. The seal’s blubber offered a sizeable oil yield for use in lamps and machinery, so explorers and settlers killed the docile pinnipeds by the hundreds. Commercial fishing further ravaged the population by destroying their food supply, and by the early 1900s sightings were very rare. The last confirmed killing of a Caribbean monk seal was in 1939, and the last verified sighting was in 1952.
#2: Western Black Rhinoceros
Traditional Chinese medicine has not been kind to rhinos of any kind, and the Western black rhinoceros is the latest casualty. Hunted for the supposed medicinal value of its horn, the western subspecies of black rhino was poached to oblivion during the 20th century. Though preservation actions were taken in the 1930s, the rhino population went into a steep decline shortly thereafter, dropping to only a few hundred in the 1980s, to only ten individuals in 2000, to only five the next year. The last reported sighting occurred in 2006, and in 2011 the rhino was declared extinct, making it the first rhino species to go extinct in modern times, though it is likely that the Sumatran and Javan rhinos are soon to follow.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Passenger Pigeon
- Sea Mink
- Bubal Hartebeest
There’s no early modern extinct animal more recognizable than the dodo. A fat, large-beaked, flightless bird that inhabited the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, the dodo lived in blissful harmony until Dutch settlers arrived on the island and fleeced the dodo of its existence. Having no natural predators on an island where they reigned supreme, the dodo was unequipped to deal with the humans and animals introduced by them, like pigs and macaques, that infested the island. From their discovery, it took only 64 for dodos to be completely wiped out, with the birds considered officially extinct by 1662. But they still live on in media as nature’s punching bags.
Do you agree with our list? Which animal extinction piqued your interest? For more devastating Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.