Thursday, October 7, 2010


A startling finding was revealed, a few days back. One third of mammals that were declared to be 'extinct' in the past few centuries were found to be alive. Diana Fisher of the University of Queensland, who compiled a list of mammals that were declared to be extinct or missing since the 16th century, said:
"We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500," The Daily Mail quoted her as writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
"In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered. More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered," she wrote.(DNA)
This is definitely some good news, signalizing some hope in the ecological circuit and in the health of the whole environment in general.
Some of the species that were found include:
 Guadulupe fur seal (courtesy:Visuals Unlimited/Corbis,

  • The Guadulupe fur seal- they were feared to be extinct in the 1890s after being slaughtered for their skins by hunters and then going missing from their breeding grounds.They were rediscovered decades later and today, their population is estimated to be around 15000.
  • Gilbert's potoroo-it is a small marsupial that went missing for 115 years till it was rediscovered in 1994 in Australia
These are just a few of the many mammals, reptiles, birds and other categories of animals that have been back from the dead.
But my point is that although this news does bring happiness, it is far from being a happy ending. It leads to quite a few concerns.
Firstly, are the concerned authorities doing their real best in looking for members of any species in a particular region before terming it as extinct or missing? Are they really taking the matter seriously and making best possible use of their skills, resources and knowledge at hand? So, it does highlight a dent in the system of functioning of the conservation authorities.
 "Conservation resources are wasted searching for species that have no chance of rediscovery, while most missing species receive no attention," Fisher told the Guardian. "Rather than searching ever more for charismatic missing species, such as thylacines in Australia, it would be a better use of resources to look for species that are most likely to be alive, find out where they are, and protect their habitats," she added.(
Secondly, this phenomenon simultaneously acts as a ray of hope and a warning bell. The species may not have become extinct, but their population had drastically gone down, making them endagered today. Now that is obviously not something to be proud of. The main causes of their dwindling population have mostly been man-made like habitat destruction, poaching and environmental pollution. It should remind us that although the creatures have made a comeback, the causes for their vanishing are still widely prevalent and need to be looked into before the species seriously get permanently wiped out, this time.

Once aware of these causes, we can act positively by taking control of the situation by coming down heavily on  human activities that adversely affect the environment and implementing new improvement plans.It would be then very much possible to revive even the most endangered species. A good and recent example of that is that in UK, 5 rarest bumblebees were restored to life (after having become extinct here) thanks to wildlife friendly agriculture and farming that aimed to support the extinct bee.

Shrill carder bumble bee in UK (courtesy:The Guardian
Still however, if we continue to treat the environment with disregard, it could only spell doom for all species, including mankind this time.

Clive Hambler, lead author of the research and a professor at Oxford University's Department of Zoology, commented that "biodiversity loss is arguably much more serious and more permanent than climate change," but, he added:It's impossible to know if policy targets to reduce the loss are being met without accurate measures of extinction rates. Until now, we had only crude estimates for a very few types of organism. Now we've got evidence that many groups of living things—lichens, bugs, moths, fish, plants and so on—are going extinct at a very similar rate to the birds.
 Nature has indeed given the whole of mankind a second chance through the re-appearance of the 'dead' species. It is now upto us to make the best or worst possible use of it.

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