Towards the end of 2018 Supermarket chain, Iceland, released a banned Christmas advert which highlighted the damage humans are inflicting on the orangutan population by harvesting palm oil and destroying their habitats.
The advert went viral, bringing the plight of the orangutan to mainstream media attention and with it a more open discussion about the damage we as humans cause our most-at-risk species.
Unfortunately, this awareness has come too late for many species which were officially classified as extinct in 2018.
Extinctions are currently happening 1000 to 10,000 times faster than the expected natural rate of deaths. This is almost solely due to human activities – destroying of habitats, the introduction of alien species and a changing climate.
BirdLife International carried out research last year which concluded that Hawaii’s insect-eating forest bird, the po’ouli, is now extinct. Two Brazilian songbirds were also declared extinct; the Cryptic Treehunter which was last seen in 2007 and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner which was last seen in 2011.
(Image: The Hawaiian Po’ouli. Wikimedia Commons)
The most talked about extinction of last year was, however, the Spix’s Macaw – a blue bird which played a notable role in Disney’s 2011 film Rio.
The famous bird died out due to a creation of a dam and deforestation as well as a number of birds which were trapped for trade due to their unique appearance.
While The Spix’s Macaw was declared extinct in the wild – an estimated 60 to 80 still live in captivity.
(Image: The Spix’s Macaw. Phys.org)
2018 also saw the extinction of the Eastern Puma, who fell victim to deforestation and culling during the 1800s in which humans killed the puma due to safety fears.
Classifying a species as extinct is a very difficult task. Scientists – who are usually hesitant to make indisputable claims – do not take the declaration of a species being extinct lightly.
Which is why the increase in species being classed as extinct is extremely worrying.
(Image: Eastern Puma, Wikipedia)
There are many animals who are on the critically endangered, who are potentially on the road to becoming extinct in 2019.
One of the most publicised upcoming extinctions is that of the Northern white rhino. The last male Northern White Rhino died last year leaving just two females, who are unable to conceive naturally. The decline in numbers is largely due to the trade of the White Rhino’s tusk.
The world’s rarest marine mammal, the Vaquita, is believed to have a wild population of only 30. Again, many of the Vaquita have been killed due to human activity. In their case, many Vaquita will get tangled and die in illegal fishing lines.
(Image: Last Male White Rhino, Flickr)
If you want more information on what you can do to help ease the current extinction crisis, you can head to WWF website for more information.