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From an Extinct Rabbit to a Dwindling Beetle: Endangered Animal Portraits by Joel Sartore

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Bryn, the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit

From Rare: "Now extinct, Bryn the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit sat for this portrait in 2007. She died in 2008, marking the end of her genetic line. This subpopulation lost its sagebrush habitat as the land was developed for agriculture in the state of Washington."

Joel Sartore (JS): "In an off-exhibit room at the Oregon zoo, the staff was quiet, even reverent, as they brought in Bryn. She was one of two Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits left, and since both were old females, this was a solemn occasion. A keeper placed her gently on my black velvet background, and I began to take photos. I stopped to watch her from time to time, but she didn't move much. She wasn't even scared. Nearly blind, missing half an ear, and with fur falling onto the cloth, she seemed to have already given up.

"The whole experience left me morose and extremely disappointed. We'd done it again, this time by converting sage habitat to agriculture in western Washington. Our photo session was one of the last chances Bryn had to be noticed. She died a few months later, and then Raphaela, the last of the breed, died as well. The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is now extinct, a passenger pigeon for the 21st century.

"To see the last of any species in a glass jar of museum preservative is an absolute outrage to me. To know that it will happen again is truly heartbreaking."

Credit: Joel Sartore/"Rare"

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