11 Recently Extinct Animals

These species have been declared extinct or possibly extinct over the past half-century.

Three Spix's Macaws on branch in captivity

Patrick Pleul / AFP / Getty Images

While scientists have documented countless new animal species since the beginning of the 21st century, many others have gone extinct. Humans are a pervasive contributor to extinction despite the groundbreaking research and conservation efforts we lead.

Determining the number of species lost is difficult, with daily estimates ranging from two dozen to as many as 150. Numbers aside, though, each species lost is a severe hindrance to biodiversity. Here's a look at some of the animals recently declared extinct or extinct in the wild.

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Pinta Giant Tortoise

Large Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, standing on rocks

Arturo de Frias Marques / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The last known Pinta giant tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii) was Lonesome George, an icon of the Galapagos, who died in captivity on June 24, 2012.

Since then, an expedition team located some first-generation hybrid tortoises on nearby Volcán Wolf, a volcanic peak on northern Isabela Island, another of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. The use of the tortoises as an onboard food source for 19th-century whalers and deforestation from introduced goats led to the extinction of the species.

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Splendid Poison Frog

bright red poison frog on dark green background

Marcos Guerra / STRI

The splendid poison frog (Oophaga speciosa) was declared extinct in 2020 and last recorded in 1992. Researchers believe the chytrid fungus outbreak of 1996 in their home range of the western Cordillera Central in Panama, near Costa Rica, led to their extinction. Deforestation and habitat degradation in the humid lowland and mountainous forests where it lived had already weakened and decreased population sizes.

Because they were once widely kept as pets, there remains a possibility that living specimens exist in captivity. Unfortunately, there are no known splendid poison frogs inhabiting zoos or research collections.

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Spix's Macaw

two small blue parrots sitting on a branch

Patrick Pleul / AFP / Getty Images

The Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), endemic to Brazil, was last seen in the wild in 2016. It was declared extinct in the wild in 2019, exactly 200 years after it was first described by German naturalist Johann Baptist von Spix who spotted it in the Brazilian interior, but there are currently around 160 of these parrots in captivity.

This species had its moment in the spotlight when one named Blu starred in the 2011 animated movie "Rio." Unfortunately, the illegal pet trade served as a significant factor in driving the bird to extinction in the wild, as did habitat loss. Hope for the continuation of the species lies in captive breeding programs that intend to reintroduce the birds to the wild.

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Pyrenean Ibex

drawing of pyrenean ibex horned antelope on a snowy background

Joseph Wolf / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) is one of two extinct subspecies of the Spanish ibex. It was declared extinct in 2000, although what caused its extinction remains unknown. Some hypotheses include poaching, diseases, and the inability to compete with other species for food.

The species was once common across France and Spain, but by the early 1900s its numbers had fallen to fewer than 100. The last Pyrenean ibex, a female nicknamed Celia, was found dead in northern Spain on Jan. 6, 2000. It was determined that she was killed by a falling tree.

Scientists took skin cells from the animal's ear and preserved them in liquid nitrogen, and in 2003, an ibex was cloned, making it the first species to become "unextinct." However, the clone died just seven minutes later due to lung defects. Subsequent efforts have failed to produce another clone, but studies examining the DNA viability continue.

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Bramble Cay Melomys

small brown and grey mouse with pointy nose

State of Queensland / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 AU

The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) was declared extinct by the IUCN in May 2015 and by the Australian government four years later in 2019. The last sighting of the melomys occurred in 2009 on the tiny coral island Bramble Cay, the only place in the world where the small rodents lived. When scientists arrived at the island in 2011 and 2014 in hopes of trapping a few species to have a "captive insurance population," there were none to be found. It appears that even the tissue samples once collected by biologists have been lost.

The Queensland State government said it was the first documented mammal extinction caused by human-made climate change. Loss of habitat, particularly the island's vegetation, occurred due to rising sea levels. Furthermore, the analysis undertaken by Queensland government scientists indicates that storm surges also led to the drowning of some animals.

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Western Black Rhino

large black rhino walking across the savannah in Africa

Jerzy Strzelecki / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The rarest of the black rhino subspecies, the Western black rhino (Diceros bicornis ssp. longipes), was recognized by the IUCN as extinct in 2011. The species was once widespread in central Africa, but the population started on a steep decline due to poaching.

The rhino was listed as critically endangered in 2008, but a survey of the animal's last remaining habitat in northern Cameroon failed to find it—or even indicators of its presence. No West African black rhinos are known to be kept in captivity. All rhinos are in trouble, although things seem to be looking up for Eastern black rhinos as population numbers continue to rise.

The video below, created by WWF's Black Rhino Expansion Project, shows the drastic efforts needed to prevent others from going extinct:

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Moorean Viviparous Tree Snail

snail with cone-shaped shell on a green leaf

Simon J. Tonge / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Moorean Viviparous Tree Snail (Partula suturalis) was declared extinct in the wild in 2009. This extinction occurred due to a chain of events caused by humans.

The African Land Snail was introduced to Tahiti in 1967 as a food source, but the plan backfired when it escaped and began to destroy crops. Biologists later attempted to control that snail by introducing a predator, the rosy wolfsnail, in 1977. The rosy wolfsnail then eradicated native snails, including the Moorean viviparous tree snail. This and other species of Polynesian tree snails now only exist in captive populations.

Reintroductions have shown these snails can breed in the wild, but the rosy wolfsnail population continues to prey upon them.

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Small banded brown bird with black head perched on fingers

Paul E. Baker /  USFWS / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The poo-uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma), also known as the blackfaced honeycreeper, is endemic to Hawaii's island of Maui and was listed as extinct in 2019. It was a very quiet bird, much quieter than other Hawaiian finches, rarely singing or calling.

Recorded for the first time by college students participating in the Hana Rainforest project on the southeastern slopes of Haleakala in 1973, this bird ate spiders, insects, beetles, butterfly larvae, and snails. At the time, its population was estimated to be only around 200.

Of the three known birds discovered in 1998, one died in captivity in 2004, and efforts to spot the remaining two have come up empty since that year. Habitat destruction, the rapid spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and invasive species eating the poo-uli, as well as its favorite land snails, are the leading theories behind the extinction.

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Dolphin with small fin and long narrow snout

Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 

China's baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), or Yangtze River dolphin, is listed as critically endangered, possibly extinct. In 2006, scientists from the Baiji Foundation traveled up the Yangtze River for more than 2,000 miles equipped with optical instruments and underwater microphones but were unable to detect any surviving dolphins. The foundation published a report on the expedition and declared the animal functionally extinct, meaning too few potential breeding pairs remained to ensure the species' survival.

The last documented sighting was in 2002. The decline in the baiji dolphin population is attributed to a variety of factors including overfishing, boat traffic, habitat loss, pollution, and poaching. The animal lived in the Yangtze River for 20 million years, only to be wiped out in less than 50 by human activity.

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Maui Akepa

yellow and orange bird with dark beak and grey streaks on wings

Hiart / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Maui akepa (Loxops ochraceus) is a songbird native to Maui that was listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct in 2018. The last sighting of this bird—another type of honeycreeper, like the poo-uli mentioned above—occurred in 1988. Recent audio recordings provide some hope that a few birds may yet survive.

Like other Hawaiian forest birds, habitat loss, competition from introduced species, and disease led to its disappearance. Researchers blame avian flu spread by introduced mosquitos for the extinction of the Maui akepa.

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Alaotra Grebe

taxidermy example of alaotra grebe on table with blue background

Totodu74 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Alaotra grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus), also known as a Delacour's little grebe or a rusty grebe, was declared extinct in 2010, although it might have gone extinct years earlier. Scientists were hesitant to write the small bird off too soon because it lived in a remote part of Madagascar known as Lake Alaotra. Thorough surveys of the area in 1989, 2004, and 2009 failed to find any evidence of the species, and the last confirmed sighting was in 1982.

The Alaotra grebe population began to decline in the 20th century because of habitat destruction and because the few remaining birds started mating with little grebes, creating a hybrid species. Considering the bird's restricted range and lack of mobility, scientists declared it extinct. Today, only one photograph exists of an Alaotra grebe in the wild.

Why Are So Many Animals Endangered?

Of the some 41,000 plant and animal species assessed by the IUCN as of 2022, more than 16,000 have been declared endangered. Animals are going extinct at historical rates due mostly to human interference, experts say. An increase in human population has led to increased demand for food, a rise in development and deforestation, a growing pollution problem, overfishing and overhunting, and more. Current estimates say species are going extinct up to 1,000 times faster than they did before humans existed.

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