How to be extinct

There is more than one way to be extinct. You may not know it, but one can be extinct while one is alive.

northern_white_rhinoceros_angalifu
a northern white rhino that lived at the San Diego Zoo.  Deceased since 2014.

The news has been saddened to cover the loss of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino.  The Northern White Rhino will become extinct now that there are no more males left to breed.  But the truth is, Northern White Rhinos have been functionally extinct this whole time, meaning their population is no longer viable, they do not play a role in their ecosystem.

bufo_periglenes2
Golden toads-RIP

If Sudan had reproduced with both of the remaining female Northern White Rhinos, any offspring of theirs would have been half siblings. However the two remaining females were already his daughter and grand daughter.  They  already share DNA, and would not be good candidates for reproduction between each other.

2012_suedchinesischer_tiger
South China Tiger-functionally extinct, but still alive.

 

We are at a unique period in time.  Perhaps unique from any other time.  Our species has come to realize that we are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the extinction of species.  As a species, we invented a word to express the phenomenon of dying out. We must come to terms that this mass extinction is blood on our hands.

xenicus_lyalli
Lyall’s Wren, whose extinction was due to  feral cats

I mourn the loss of Northern White Rhinos.  But more importantly, we must acknowledge that Scientists estimate  150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours.  (cited from the UN Environment Programme).  It is not just the largest most recognizable animals that deserve our attention, but all the LBB (little brown birds) who disappear without our tears.

And in the long run, it is the causes of extinction that must be addressed, more than the carnage itself. We must examine our past to see the path that has lead us here, in order to forge ahead in a better direction.

“I know that we will be the sufferers if we let great wrongs occur without exerting ourselves to correct them.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

let us do better,

-merbabe

 

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