15 Animals We Lost to Extinction in the Past 50 Years

Scientists believe 100 to 10,000 species go extinct annually, up to 1,000 times faster than historic extinction rates. Human activity, like hunting and land development, drives these species to extinction. Here are 15 animals that have been lost to extinction over the past 50 years. 

West African Black Rhinoceros

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The West African black rhinoceros is an extinct subspecies of the black rhinoceros. In 2011, the IUCN announced the subspecies, once widespread in the savanna of sub-Saharan Africa, was extinct after numbers declined due to poaching. 

Pinta Island Tortoise

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The Pinta Island tortoise was a subspecies of Galápagos tortoise that was assumed extinct until a single male, Lonesome George, was discovered on Ecuador’s Pinta Island in 1971. The Galápagos Conservancy announced that Lonesome George was found dead at his corral by Galapagos National Park Service members on June 24, 2012, leaving the subspecies extinct. 

Golden Toad

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This toad was once abundant in a 4-square-kilometer high-altitude region of the elfin cloud forest north of Monteverde, Costa Rica. The last sighting of the species was a male toad on May 15, 1989, and it has since been considered extinct by the IUCN.

Guam Kingfisher

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This kingfisher species was formerly endemic to Guam but was driven to extinction in the wild after the introduction of brown tree snakes. Last seen in the wild in 1986, it’s now restricted to captive breeding programs. 

Christmas Island Pipistrelle

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This extinct vesper bat species was only found on Christmas Island, Australia. It was last seen in 2009 after it was previously commonly seen on the island. Its population dramatically declined after 1990, potentially because of the introduction of non-native species. 

Formosan Clouded Leopard

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This clouded leopard was endemic to Taiwan and highly respected by the Indigenous Rukai people. Camera trapping studies carried out in several areas between 1997 and 2012 failed to record any individuals, and the IUCN considers it extinct.

Pyrenean Ibex

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This subspecies of the Iberian ibex became extinct in January 2000. Forbes notes the species was “the first extinct species to be cloned and the first species to go extinct twice” after a failed cloning experiment to de-extinct the animal in 2003.

Javan Tiger

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This tiger population was native to the Indonesian island of Java, but its natural habitat drastically decreased due to agricultural land use. By 1940, it had retreated to the remote forested areas of the island, and no evidence of any remaining individuals was found during studies in the 1980s and 1990s, so it was considered extinct. 

Spix’s Macaw

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The IUCN declared Spix’s macaw, a medium-sized parrot endemic to Brazil, extinct in the wild in 2019. The Guardian reported in 2022 that “thanks to a remarkable international rescue project,” they have made a “stunning comeback” after being released back to the wild following successful captive breeding efforts. 

Alaotra Grebe

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This grebe bird was endemic to Lake Alaotra in Madagascar and was last sighted in 1985. The IUCN declared it extinct in 2010. Experts believe it became extinct after non-native carnivorous fish were introduced into its native habitat. 

Northern White Rhinoceros

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Only two known female northern white rhinoceros remain, and the species is considered functionally extinct. They live in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, protected by armed guards, and efforts are underway to revive the species with frozen sperm and artificial insemination. 

Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

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This turtle species is possibly the largest living freshwater turtle in the world, native to eastern and southern China and northern Vietnam. It’s considered functionally extinct, as the last known females are dying out. 

Scimitar-horned Oryx

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The scimitar-horned oryx was once widespread across North Africa but was widely hunted for its distinctive horns and declared extinct in the wild in 2000 by the IUCN. Captive breeding programs in Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal, as well as private exotic animal ranches in Texas, have been successful, and a 2016 reintroduction program was successful in Chad. 

Atitlán Grebe

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This extinct water bird was endemic to Lago de Atitlán in Guatemala. Its population began to decline in 1958 after the smallmouth and largemouth bass were introduced, which reduced the number of crabs and fish the grebe ate and killed its chicks. Despite initially successful conservation efforts, the last two birds were seen in 1989, and the species was declared officially extinct. 

Caspian Tiger

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This tiger subspecies was native to a stretch of Asia, from eastern Turkey to Xinjiang in western China. Its native environments were sparse forests and riverine corridors, but it gradually became extinct due to sportsmen and military personnel hunting prey species, natural disasters, and diseases. 

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