US declares 23 extinct plants and animals

In a rare case, the US federal register will officially declare 23 species extinct.

Among these extinctions is the “Lord God Bird”, an ivory-billed woodpecker from the southeastern United States. popular hunting target in the 19th century and lost most of its habitat to logging. Eight birds found on the Hawaiian Islands that are also on the list have succumbed to a combination of invasive species and diseases contracted by mosquitoes; a warmer world has allowed mosquitoes to reach once intolerable high altitude habitats.

All of these species were originally listed as ‘endangered’, but their status is becoming ‘extinct’ as they can no longer be found in the wild. And, many of these species have disappeared due to climate change and human destruction of their habitats. Although 11 other species have been delisted due to extinction (today’s additions bring the total to 34 species), 99% of species protected by the Endangered Species Act established in 1973 continue to persist on this planet. In fact, 54 species have been delisted because their populations have recovered to the point where they no longer need protection.

Some disagree with this decision, as it may be premature to declare these species extinct. And, without protections, there are fewer conservation funds to support their recovery. But, removing questionably extinct species frees up resources to support other species in need. Ultimately, addressing the sources of these extinctions – human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss – is probably the best way to ensure that more species are delisted as their populations are increasing, and not because they have completely disappeared from the planet.