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Extinction Is Forever


Extinction is forever
The lengthening roll-call of species that are no longer with us is truly alarming. In the past, human intervention through hunting and harvesting was the main culprit in eliminating entire, often quite numerous, species. While this is still a problem, the shaping of natural habitat for everything from cars to crops is today the main threat to other species, particularly in the tropics and the wetlands.

Illustration by EDITH LOOKER

The North American Mastodon

This huge herbivore was once held to be the victim of climate change. Now many of the mega-fauna (like sabre-tooth tigers) of the Americas are thought to have fallen to the experienced hunters of Euro-Asia. Their hunter-gatherer societies were sustained in part by Mastodon meat The Mastodon did not have the time to adapt to the world's most efficient predator.


Illustration by EDITH LOOKER


The Passenger Pigeon.
Last seen in 1889 flocks of these bright-eyed wild pigeons once darkened the skies of Eastern North America. recorded in flocks three or four miles wide. Unfortunately they proved easy prey for commercial hunters. Sheer population size was no insurance against extinction.



Illustration by EDITH LOOKER

The Palestinian Painted Frog
This colourful frog inhabited limited range mostly in the area of Lake Hula on the Syrian-Israeli border. The last one died in 1956. It is one of a number of species that have vanished due to drainage and wetland modification schemes. A similar fate befell the pink-headed duck that inhabited the heavily populated delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.


Illustration by EDITH LOOKER



The Moa
These large flightless birds were no match for Maori hunters in Aotearoa/New Zealand They were one of a number of flightless birds (the Dodo, the Great Auk) now gone. An environment without predators was suddenly invaded by humans and their egg-gobbling fellow traveller - the common rat.




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Issue 288 Contents
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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1997


New Internationalist issue 288 magazine cover This article is from the March 1997 issue of New Internationalist.
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