Animals That Went Extinct in 2018

Due to habitat loss and exploitation, introduction of new species to unprepared environments, and climate change, extinction rates are rising. Extinctions are a natural occurance; however, the rate at which they are happening has drastically increased in recent decades. The natural rate of extinction usually causes about one to five extinctions each year. In recent years, these have been inflated to 1,000 to 10,000 higher than the natural rate, causing an unnatural and dangerous amout of extinctions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that this is "the worst rate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs." 

In 2018, bird species were the main victims of extinction, since there were four bird species that were lost in the past year. Typically, it is not unusual when bird species go extinct, since they are usually from islands, where the gene pool and population is already small, making it especially hard for them to adapt and survive when a sudden problem strikes. They are more susceptible to diseases, predation, and natural disasters. However, with 2018, three of the bird species were not from islands, which is especially concerning to scientists. This is mainly caused by humans through habitat destruction and unsustainable agriculture and logging practices, which explains why the mainland species are starting to disappear. 

Even though the main victims were birds, there were other species that were lost this year, and there are plenty more that are still at high risk in 2019. 

The Po'ouli 

The Po'ouli is a Hawaiian forest bird that eats insects. In 1981, their population dropped to 150, and there was a further decline from there because of the introduction of an invasive species. They were also heavily hunted by mongooses, cats, and rats. Feral pigs destroyed their habitats, and mosquitoes spread diseases amongst the population. The bird has not been seen in the wild since 2004, and their species only had a 0.1% chance of survival in 2018.  

Photo Courtesy of Pexels 

The Cryptic Treehunter and Alagoas Foliage-Gleaner 

Both the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-Gleaner are songbirds from northeastern Brazil. The Treehunter wasn't discovered until 2002, and it was immediately added to the critically endangered list because of it's extremely low population numbers. The last sighting of the Treehunter was in 2007, which the Gleaner was last seen in 2011. For both of these birds, deforestation was the main cause of extinction. 

The Spix's Macaw 

Best known for their appearence in the film Rio, the Spix's Macaw is the final species of bird to go extinct in 2018. However, they are only extinct in the wild, and there are still about 50 alive in captivity. 

The Northern White Rhino 

In 2018, the last male Northern White Rhino died, leaving only two females left. Scientists have tried to make hope for the species through embryotic experiments so that the females can reproduce without the male. They were able to create a rhino embryo from the sperm of males that have been dead for a while, but the difficulty they are having now is getting a live birth from the surrogate mother. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the extinction of the Northern White Rhino was caused by poachers hunting them for their horns. 

Insect Populations 

While no one specific insect species was singled out this year, insect populations in general have been decreased significantly because of climate change; destruction of the rainforests ia also further increasing insect death rates in the tropical ecosystems. However, there is an overall 75% decline of insect populations in places like Europe, where there isn't extreme habitat destruction. In general, insect extinctions tend to get overlooked since many people do not understand the importance of the role that insects play in ecosystems. They are the bottom of the food chain, and their extinction will affect all upper levels of the chain and cause significant harm to ecosystems, throwing them incredibly off balance. 

The Vaquita 

While the Vaquita did not go extinct in 2018, they are at extreme risk of extinction in 2019. The Vaquita is a porpoise from the Sea of Cortez in the eastern Pacific Ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they are the most endangered marine mammals in the world, and they have less than 30 left in the wild. They are endangered because of illegal fishing where they get stuck in the nets and drown. Scientists have been raising some in captivity, but they don't want to capture any more from the wild because that might just lead them to extinction faster. 

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

The Red Wolf

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are only about 40 red wolves left in the U.S. that still exist in the wild. They also predicted that in about 8 years, they will be completely extinct. 

There Can Still Be Hope 

On the bright side, the black California condor made a slow rebound back into the wild due to conservation measures in 2018; this was the first year that a wild-born condor was able to make it to the flight stage of development in the wild. 

This goes to show that species can really be saved if there is truly an effort to protect them and their habitat, rather than just resorting to raising them in captivity. Especially with condors, which play essential roles in ecosystems, protecting them is important to securing the dynamic of the entire surrounding environment. Hopefully in 2019, there will be more efforts to save animals like the Vaquita and the red wolves, and more pushes to conserve the environment and practice sustainable life habits in general.