10 Extinct Animals Lost to Planet Earth but Preserved in Photographs [Excerpt & Photo Essay]

These 10 animals are just a few of the species to have been lost to extinction but still can be seen via old photographs

Photo credit: A photograph taken during 1911 at a Berlin zoo showing a captive Schomburgk's deer. Photographer unknown.

Despite the fact that it was once quite common, Schomburgk's deer is a mysterious animal. There appears to be only one preserved specimen in the world's museums, a stuffed animal in the collection of the Natural History Museum, Paris. Similarly, there seems to be just a single photograph and this was taken at a Berlin Zoo during 1911 (another purporting to show Schomburgk's deer may actually show another species).

As far as is known the animals were extinct in the wild by the early 1930s. One individual--perhaps the last--was kept as a pet in a temple in the Samut Sakhon province of Thailand where it lived until 1938. There is a story that it was killed in that year by a local drunk.

Photo credit: This rather blurred photo is one of the only photographic images of the 'O'u, a species that was obviously very difficult to capture on film. It has not proved possible to find details of when or how it was taken.

Several extinctions happened in the Hawaiian Islands at the end of the nineteenth century or start of the twentieth, and there is no photographic record of most of the species concerned. One species that survived this onslaught of extinction is called the 'O 'u, a word pronounced just as might be expected, Oh-oo. The initial escape was not to last, however.

During the twentieth century populations plummeted. By the 1970s the species was almost extinct with just a few survival pockets. One of the last reasonably stable colonies lived on the slopes of the volcano Mauna Loa. During 1984 a lava flow demolished the habitat. The species had a last redoubt on the island of Kauai and was reliably seen there during 1988, but a hurricane destroyed this particular area soon after. Hopes are expressed that birds may still survive in places inaccessible to mosquitos, but this hope becomes increasingly forlorn as time passes.

Photo Credit: Don Merton

Don Merton (1939-2011) is a legendary figure in the story of animal conservation and the preservation of species. He was instrumental in saving New Zealand's black robin (Petroica traversi) from extinction, one of the most spectacular achievements of the conservation movement. Sadly, neither he nor his colleagues could save the New Zealand bush wren.

It had once been an inhabitant of much of the country. The bush wren was found on both of New Zealand's main islands, although in historical times it seems to always have been rare on the North. On the South Island, however, it was comparatively plentiful. Its small size and a fatal liking for spending time on the ground made it vulnerable to attacks from mammalian predators, of course. Once these animals began to occur on New Zealand soil--through the agency of humans--the bush wren's days were numbered. By the beginning of the 20th century it had become rare, and as the century wore on it became excessively so.

In September 1964 Merton was able to photograph one of the few surviving wrens on Big South Cape, one of New Zealand's offshore islands, but unfortunately in that year rats somehow managed to invade the island. It didn't take long for them to do their work. The last fully authenticated records of living wrens in this area date from 1972.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article