The extinction of species is a phenomenon that has always occurred in the past, but what is happening in our time is completely different. Although some animals have been wiped off the map, it is mainly because of human exploitation.
In 2018, three bird species disappeared forever, and some others may join them in 2019. And if that's not enough, many biologists are already sounding the alarm: 30 to 50% of wildlife species on the planet could no longer exist in 2050.
‘Worst wave of extinction since the dinosaurs’
‘Our planet is experiencing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, the sixth wave in half a billion years. We are currently experiencing the worst wave of extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago’ warns the American Centre for Biological Diversity.
Among the species that officially went extinct in 2018 is the Po'ouli, a bird endemic to the island of Hawaii. Discovered 45 years ago, its number has never exceeded 150 specimens. But hunted by cats, rats and mongooses, it has not been seen since 2004.
Endemic species now extinct
Other endemic species have been declared extinct. For example, in Brazil, the cryptic tree hunter and Philydor novaesi, two songbirds, were last seen in 2007 and 2011. And despite being placed on the critically endangered species list, they have not been seen since.
Although there are still 60 to 80 specimens in captivity, the Spix's Macaw, famous for being the star of the movie Rio, has been declared extinct, a victim of poaching and destruction of its habitat.
For others, the end is near
Although these species are now part of history, for others, it is only a matter of hours or days. Thus, the last male white rhino died in Kenya last March.
Only two female specimens remain in captivity. Assisted reproduction is always possible, however it relies on expensive methods which have never been tested on rhinoceros’.
The smallest of critically endangered cetaceans
The world's rarest aquatic mammal may also not be able to survive 2019. The porpoise in the Gulf of California is thought to have no more than thirty individuals living in the wild.
Discovered in 1958, it is the smallest species of cetaceans alive, but is threatened by drift nets installed by fishermen. This is the biggest threat to the few individuals that are still alive.
For some species, good news
For some species, the year 2018 still held some good news. Mountain gorillas, for the first time in a long time, are no longer classified as critically endangered.
And the rat-kangaroo, a small species of rodent, was rediscovered 30 years after being declared extinct, as was the Ambystoma dumerilii salamander, endemic to Mexico, which was saved thanks to a breeding farm run by nuns.
Take a look at the video above for more on which animals are in grave danger of extinction this year...
Image source: Getty Images