Extinct Beauty

giant moa

Having read Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, I thought I’d try Alfred Russell Wallace’s journal of his voyage through the Malay Archipelago, especially since it’s a region of the world I rather like (at least, a lot more than I do South America) and although it’s very well written, I am still shocked by just how many creatures Wallace killed. I think he got through at least a dozen orang-utans, and goodness knows what other rare creatures we only know about because he preserved specimens, as they are otherwise extinct.

This was the fate that befell this wonderful creature, the giant moa, at one time the largest flightless bird in the world. As you can see, it’s quite a bit bigger than an ostrich, but has been hunted to extinction. Consequently, this is a valuable photograph as it allows us to see what it looked like when alive. Unfortunately, it’s not in colour, but you can’t have everything.

All we know about the dodo is from preserved specimens; the same applies to the Tasmanian tiger, one of the Galapagos turtles, the auk and a whole range of other animals. It will soon apply to the Amazon river dolphin, the orang-utan and the water vole. Hunting and habitat loss has done untold damage to these creatures, rendering them critically endangered and ultimately extinct.

Zoos do leave a lot to be desired, but I would much rather a creature lived in captivity than cease to exist otherwise. It is often through the breeding programmes of zoos and wildlife parks that a species manages to survive and eventually return to the wild, albeit in an environment unlike one it would have survived in for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s not right, I know that deep down, but while people persist in hunting and destroying forests, then this is the reality we have to face.

Just keep the spiders well away from me, thanks.