A Glimpse of What We've Lost: 10 Extinct Animals in Photos

credit: Unknown photographer, 1933

We're in the midst of the sixth great extinction right now, with the rise of humans being behind the unprecedented rise in the rate we're losing species.


The largest carnivorous marsupial in modern times (standing about 2' tall and 6' long including the tail), the Thylacine once lived in mainland Australia and New Guinea, by the time of European settlement it was already nearly extinct, due to human activity. In Tasmania however (hence, the more common name of Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf) it lived on, with the last one confirmed killed in the wild in 1930. The last Thylacine in captivity, pictured above, died in 1936. That said, through the 1960s people suspected that the Thylacine may have held on in small pockets, with the final declaration of extinction not happening until the 1980s. To this day however, occasional reports of sightings surface in Tasmania and New Guinea.


credit: Unknown photographer, 1870s

Only one Quagga was ever photographed, the female above, taken at the London Zoo. In the wild, the Quagga, a subspecies of the plains zebra, was found in great numbers in South Africa. However, the Quagga was hunted to extinction for meat, hides, and to preserve feed for domesticated animals. The last wild Quagga was shot in the 1870s, with the last one held in captivity dying in August of 1883. Interesting fact, the Quagga was the first extinct animal to have its DNA examined. Prior to this it was believed the animal was an entirely separate species from the zebra, rather than a subspecies. Read more: Animal Planet


credit: Scherer

The Tarpan, or Eurasian Wild Horse, lived in the wild until sometime between 1875-1890, with the last wild one killed during an attempt the capture it. The last one in captivity died in 1918. Tarpans stood slightly under 5' tall at the shoulder, with a thick mane, a grullo colored body with dark legs, with dorsal and shoulder stripes. There's some debate about whether the photo above is a genuine Tarpan, but the image, from 1884 is claimed to be the only photo of a live Tarpan.

Seychelles Giant Tortoise

credit: Photographer unknown, 1905

There's some controversy over whether the Seychelles Giant Tortoise is extinct altogether or just extinct in the wild. In the 19th century the Seychelles Giant Tortoise, much like similar tortoise species on other Indian Ocean islands, was hunted to extinction. Prior to being wiped out in the wild by the 1840s, it lived only the edges of marshes and streams, grazing on vegetation. In captivity however, there is some hope that a dozen tortoises on La Digue Island may in fact be Seychelles Giant Tortoises. Furthermore, one tortoise, believed to now top 180 years old and kept on Saint Helena (an island in the South Atlantic), may also be of the species. Read more: 255 Year Old Tortoise Dies in India

Barbary Lion

credit: Sir Alfred Edward Pease, 1893

Formerly found from Morocco to Egypt, the Barbary lion (also known as the Atlas lion or Nubian lion) was the largest and heaviest of the lion subspecies. Unlike other lions, due to scarcity of food in its habitat, the Barbary lion did not live in prides. The last wild Barbary lion was shot in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in 1922. However, questions remain about whether some lions held in captivity at zoos or in circuses may be descendants of the Barbary lion. Historical note: Lions used in gladiatorial combat in Roman times were most likely Barbary lions. The photo above dates from 1893 and was taken in Algeria.

Bali Tiger

credit: Oskar Vojnich

The above photo, taken in 1913 is definitely not clear, but nevertheless documents one of three tiger subspecies of Indonesia and the smallest tiger subspecies to have ever lived, the Bali tiger. The last confirmed Bali tiger was killed in September of 1937, with small numbers suspected to have lived on until the 1940s or 1950s. Habitat loss and hunting by humans (largely Europeans, not the Balinese) killed them off. Bali tigers had shorter, darker fur than other tigers, and were the size of leopards or mountain lions. Read more: First-Time Footage of Super Rare Sumatran Tiger & Cubs Released (Video)

Caspian Tiger

credit: Unknown photographer, 1895

At the other end of the scale from the Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger was one of the largest cat species to ever exist, only slightly smaller than the massive Siberian tiger. Once living from the shores of the Black sea, through those of the Caspian sea and on through what's now northern Iran, into Afghanistan, the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and on into far western China, the Caspian tiger was systematically hunted to extinction. This began in the late 19th century, with the Russian colonization of Turkestan. Regionally they began their road to extinction in 1887 in Iraq, with the last confirmed sightings happening in the 1970s in the border region of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Unconfirmed sightings continued on until the early 1990s. Read more: Wild Tiger Population Dropped by 96.8% in 20 Years

Western Black Rhino

credit: Martijn Munneke

The plight of the rhinoceros due to poaching has been well documented here on TreeHugger, and the Western Black Rhino is a graphic example. Once widespread in central west Africa, in 2011 it was declared extinct. Though conservation efforts, beginning in the 1930s, helped population recover from historic hunting, by the 1980s protection for the species waned and poaching soared. At the start of the 21st century just 10 individuals remained. By 2006 these has all been killed. Black rhinos continue to live on, albeit critically endangered, in the eastern and southern parts of Africa. Read more: Rhino Poaching in South Africa Reaches a New Record

Golden Toad

credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

In many ways the Golden Toad is an iconic species when it comes to extinction. Only described to science in 1966, and once abundant in a 30 square mile area of the cloud forest above Monteverde, Costa Rica, none of the 2" long toads have been sighted since the 15th of May 1989. The reason for sudden extinction is not conclusively known, but habitat loss and chytrid fungus are the likely culprits. Regional weather changes brought about by El Niño conditions are also suspected to have played a role in killing off the last of the Golden Toads. Read more: A Tale of Two Frogs That Need "Save the Frogs" Day

Pinta Island Tortoise

credit: putneymark

The Pinta Island Tortoise, a subspecies of the Galápagos tortoise, may be the most recent large animal to be declared extinct. The last of the line, the over 100-year old male dubbed Lonesome George (that's him, above), died on June 24, 2012 from heart failure. The species had been presumed extinct by the middle part of the 20th century, with the large majority of them killed by the end of the 19th century, but in 1971 George was discovered. In addition to hunting by humans, introduction of non-native species such as goats contributed to habitat loss leading to the demise of the tortoise. Read more: 5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Galapagos