Sunday, November 9, 2008

Animal extinction

The impending extinction of so many animals--especially the flagship species, the polar bear--is incredibly distressing (as is the dying of the honeybees, the depletion of the oceans, and the destruction of the rainforests). We are responsible for widespread extinctions that pale in comparison to the famous examples of the past. The death of the last passenger pigeon is pinpointed to Sept. 1, 1914, when the last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo. As many as 5 billion of the birds, some 40% of the bird population in the U.S., had been hunted to extinction for food in the 1800s. The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was hunted to extinction in Australia in the 20th century, not for food but out of fear. The passenger pigeon survives only as a mounted specimen at the Smithsonian; the thylacine exists on film.

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