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Friday, April 21, 2017

Have You Seen Me?

Earth Day is, by its very nature, a holiday with activist inclinations.  This year, it looks to be taking advocacy even further, as "Marches for Science" crop up across the country, supported in part by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

As a reminder of what the struggle is about, a group of scientists are sounding a final warning call for 25 species of plants and animals - species which they suspect may already be extinct.  In some cases, specimens haven't been observed in decades, but their fate is still uncertain (unlike other species, like the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, which have been officially declared "Extinct" by the IUCN, but still have occasional unconfirmed sightings).

The list of the probable-goners includes a duck, a parakeet, a tortoise, and a tree kangaroo, among others.  Each one in many ways represents a failure - a failure of us to protect a species, which is now presumably lost forever (just not definitively yet).  It's sad to think that some of these species could have been saved with better habitat protection, better regulation of hunting or harvesting, better attention to the spread of invasive species, etc.  Some of them could have conceivably have been saved if zoos and aquariums had taken an interest early on and created insurance colonies for future reintroduction.

Mostly, I wonder what species will be on this list 25 years from now... species that we'll be kicking ourselves for not having done more for.

The Pink Headed Duck has remained elusive since it was last seen in 1949. Photo credit: Philip Nelson via Global Wildlife Conservation.

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