14 animals declared extinct in the 21st century

When writing the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the 108th Congress found that "various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation." And while the ESA has saved at least 227 species since 1973, many animals have gone extinct since it took effect. At least 17 animal species have already died out in the 21st century, with all but two of these extinctions taking place outside of the US.

Many other species have disappeared in recent history, but they remain listed as either "critically endangered" or "extinct in the wild" because scientists require extended search periods before officially declaring a species extinct.

1. Pinta Island Tortoise, Chelonoidis abingdoni, 2012

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise, poses at his final home in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, February 2009.

The Pinta tortoise was thought to be extinct in the mid-1900s when its previously pristine habitat in the northern regions of the Galapagos Archipelago was overrun by fishermen – and the goats they introduced to the remote island to provide fresh meat after long fishing voyages.

The goats quickly overran the ecosystem, including the tortoise's sole habitat, and by 1970 an estimated 40,000 goats lived on the island. 

To researchers’ surprise, a Hungarian scientist found a lone tortoise on Pinta Island in 1971: Lonesome George. Researchers searched Pinta and zoos across the world with the hope of finding a mate for George, but could not find any other Pinta Island tortoises.

Scientists at Yale University have since studied the genetics of these giant Galapagos tortoises, and found several tortoises on Wolf Volcano that are half Pinta. Scientists are hoping to restore these newly-discovered hybrid tortoises to Pinta Island.

The last Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, died at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos Islands in 2012. Although George became extremely overweight while in captivity, he died in relatively good health at over 100 years old.

1 of 14

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.