Skip links

"Wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will. "

-Theodore Roosevelt


A Century of Extinction is a series of illustrations which aims to share the tragic stories of some of the animals which have gone extinct each decade starting in the 1900s. Although it is too late for these beautiful creatures, they serve as messengers to bring attention to the similar problems that many animals are facing today. It is our duty to be aware of their plight and work together to prevent the loss of any more species.
To do my part, all profits made from A Century of Extinction will be donated to the World Wildlife Foundation, which helps with the conservation of endangered animals worldwide.
Let’s work together to preserve and protect nature and its wildlife.


The Honshū wolf (scientific name: Canis lupus hodophilax), along with the Hokkaido wolf, are two extinct subspecies of common gray wolves from Japan. Both wolves were extinct by the early 1900s due to similar causes. Honshū wolves were abundant during the 1700s to the mid-1800s throughout the remote mountain areas of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū, Japan. Decades before their extinction, the Honshū wolf was worshiped as a god, and travelers believed that they protected them, helping them safely reach home. Change in Japanese agriculture altered the peoples’ beliefs, turning the Honshū wolf from a god to a pest.


The Honshū wolf only measured about 35 inches long and roughly 12 inches wide at the shoulder. They were considered the most petite known subspecies of Canis lupus, or gray wolves, and were said to have resembled dogs, coyotes, and jackals. They had short hair, short legs, and a thin dog-like tail that was bushy at the end. Honshū wolves were known to prey on animals bigger than them, such as deer and wild boar.

Islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū, Japan

There were many factors which led to the extinction of the Honshū wolf. Honshū wolf populations began suffering from an epidemic of a very contagious form of rabies, which was thought at the time to be transferred to the wolves through domestic dogs. Deforestation and agricultural practices also had a hand in their extinction due to limiting the wolves’ habitat. When American-style ranches were introduced in Japan, wolves became a large threat to livestock and the Americans recommended using a poison called strychnine to kill the wolves. Within two decades of each other, both the Honshū and Hokkaido wolf became extinct.

The passenger pigeon (scientific name: Ectopistes migratorius) roamed all over North America during the 1700s and 1800s. At the time, they were thought to be the most numerous birds on the planet.  During the 19th century, there were estimated to be anywhere from one billion to four billion passenger pigeons. They were known to have traveled in flocks ranging from one to 300 miles long, and if the flock was large enough, it could darken the sky for days, even weeks. They traveled fast throughout the eastern and mid-western United States and Canada, being able to reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour. When passenger pigeons nested, they could take over a whole forest, crammed in trees in groups so large that branches would snap and fall.


The passenger pigeon was larger but very similar to the Mourning dove. The male passenger pigeons were brighter than the females, with males being slate blue with copper undersides while the females were muted. Their eyes were scarlet, matching their wine-red breast.

North America

During their prime, passenger pigeons were believed to account for 40% of the entire North American bird population. The two major causes of the passenger pigeon’s extinction were commercial exploitation and loss of habitat. They were hunted for their plumage and meat and sold on a massive scale. Hunting these pigeons was so popular, with many relying on their meat to survive during the winter, their population of four billion declined to only 14 by the end of 1800s. Their thick flocks made hunting these birds very easy. Breeding efforts were made in the early 1900s with the remaining captive passenger pigeons. However, with only a few of them left, they were weakened and died. In 1914, Martha, the last of her passenger pigeon species, died in the Cincinnati Zoo.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News/Wikimedia Commons

In 1953, 30 years after their extinction, the California grizzly bear (scientific name: Ursus arches californicus) became the official state animal of California. The California grizzly bear is California’s most visible symbol, embellished on the state flag and seal. Prior to their extinction, California had the highest concentration of grizzly bears on Earth, estimated to be 10,000 bears. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub during a bear hunt and the Washington Post published a cartoon sharing the president’s ethical decision. This gained so much popularity that a stuffed bear toy was created to celebrate. This adorable toy is what we now know as the Teddy Bear.

With similarities to the grizzly of the southern coast of Alaska, the California grizzly was admired for its beauty, size, and strength, being strong enough to combat wild longhorn bulls. They stood 8 feet tall and weighed about 2,000 pounds. “Grizzly” refers to the golden and gray tips of its hair and its large size.

North America

The California grizzly bear thrived in the great valleys and low mountains of California for centuries until European settlements advanced into the state in mid 18th century. As human populations spread into California during the 19th century, California grizzly bears stood their ground and refused to retreat, killing livestock and interfering with settlements.  This caused settlers to poison and shoot grizzlies to protect their livestock. The gold rush in 1894 was the biggest factor in their extinction.  Miners and other immigrants tracked and killed off these grizzlies in appalling numbers, and hunters killed many grizzlies for their warm fur. They were baited and fought with other animals such as bulls. The last known California grizzly bear was shot in August 1922 in Tulare County, California.

"Bear in Mind" The California Grizzly Bear at The Bancroft Library


Grizzly Bear

The Thylacine (scientific name: Thylacinus cynocephalus) is also commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf. They were native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The thylacine’s existence dated as far back as 1000 BC, maybe even further, with the discovery of their engraved images on rock walls. In 1642, Europeans encountered the thylacine when they first set foot in Tasmania, describing them as “wild beasts having claws like Tyger.”


The Thylacine was the largest marsupial carnivore. They resembled canines in appearance but with shorter legs, narrower hind legs, and a broader base tail, which made them unable to wag their tail from side to side. They had a yellow-brown coat with a creamed colored belly. Thylacines also had 15 to 20 dark stripes from the middle back reaching to the base of their tail, which lead to their “tyger” nickname. Adult Thylacines typically weighed between 55 to 77 pounds. They were considered as semi-nocturnal; mostly hunting at night but also roaming during the day.

Tasmania, Australia, New Guinea

Their decline into extinction began with the arrival of European settlers in Tasmania and Australia in the late 18th century. Although thylacines had an introverted nature, avoiding humans when able, they were hunted because settlers had mistakenly assumed they preyed upon their sheep and poultry. Due to this fear, the Van Diemen’s Land Company organized bounties on the thylacine in the 1830s. Between 1888 and 1909 the Tasmanian Government paid £1 per adult head and ten shillings for pups. In later studies after their extinction, the thylacines were proven to be innocent because their feeble jaws made them unable to hunt prey larger than 11 pounds. The last known thylacine in the wild was shot in 1930 by a farmer.

"Thylacine: The tragic tale of the Tasmanian Tiger" by David Owen

The Barbary lion (scientific name: Panthera leo leo) was nicknamed The Atlas lion after the Atlas Mountains in modern Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia where these lions once roamed. The Barbary lion generally spent its time alone, although they were known to sometimes form same-sex pairs. For thousands of years, the Barbary lion coexisted with local peoples, even being kept as pets by royalty in Morocco and other African nations.

Measuring up to 11 feet in length, with males ranging from 400 to 600 pounds and females from 250 to 400 pounds, the Barbary lion was the largest of the lion subspecies. Male Barbary lions were known for their thick, dark manes which would extend over their shoulders and cover parts of their belly. Even the females would have somewhat shaggy fur, with long hair around the neck, shoulders, and even behind the legs. Another notable trait of the Barbary lion was their golden eyes, as compared to the brown eyes of African lions.

Atlas Mountains, North Africa

The emergence of The Roman Empire saw thousands of these lions being imported to Europe to fight in the Roman Colosseum, as well as being exploited in European zoos and parks. Emerging civilizations then squeezed the remaining lions into smaller territories. The Barbary lion first became extinct in Tripoli in 1700. In Tunisia, hunting and deforestation caused their extinction in 1891. In Algeria, hunting lions was encouraged by the government and tribes collected large sums of money for their skins. The increase of firearms during the civil wars and banditry in Morocco killed the last of the Barbary lions in the Atlas Mountains in 1922. The last recorded Barbary lion in the wild was shot in the western Maghreb in 1942. Though some zoos claim they have Barbary lions, most likely they are just hybrids with lions from sub-Saharan Africa.

"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Léon Gérôme - Walters Art Museum

The Caribbean monk seal (scientific name: Monachus tropicalis), also known as the West Indian monk seal, was the closest relative to the Mediterranean monk seal and Hawaiian monk seal, which are currently critically endangered. Records suggest that this species would rest on land in large groups typically 20 to 40 seals in size but sometimes amassed in groups of almost 100 seals. The Caribbean monk seal was first recorded in 1493 by Columbus, but they existed for thousands of years in the tropical waters of the West Indies.

Contrary to how one might picture a seal, monk seals were rather large creatures, growing to be up to 8 feet long and weighing a hefty 375 to 600 pounds. Caribbean monk seals had broad faces, with large eyes spaced far apart. Their front flippers seemed disproportionately small for their large bodies, with small claws on the ends. At a young age, Caribbean monk seals were more pale and yellowish than their adult counterparts, darkening as they aged to end up brown or gray.

West Indies

Although the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals formally declared the Caribbean monk seal extinct in 1996, the last colony of monk seals was last observed in 1952 between Jamaica and Honduras. Their extermination began with Spanish explorers in 1494, being hunted and killed for their fur hides, meat, oil, and to be put on display in museums. Due to the seal’s trusting nature, hunters were able to approach the seals directly and slaughter them without much effort. Development of the coast also harmed the seals by forcing them to abandon their habitat. By the 1700s they were considered rare. Conservation efforts in the 1980s and 1990s were too little, too late.

Not much is known about the Guam flying fox (scientific name: Pteropus tokudae), also called the little Mariana fruit bat, as they were not extensively studied prior to their extinction. Although many would be frightened to see such a large bat, one need not worry as the Guam flying fox likely fed on only fruits, flowers, and the foliage of evergreen trees. While roosting, the Guam flying fox was known to intermingle with a larger and more common relative, the Mariana’s flying fox.

At a mere six inches in length, the Guam flying fox had an average wingspan of about 28 inches. Sharing many qualities with its close relative, the Chuuk flying fox, the Guam flying fox had a gray head with a dark brown body, and sometimes had a vibrant golden coloring around their necks. The color of the abdomen and wings were brown with a few white hairs.

Guam and Mariana Islands

The main cause of extinction of the Guam flying fox was due to natives who hunted them for food even though they were already rare. They were considered a delicacy and were harvested whenever a chance occurred. Another large contributing factor to their extinction was the introduction of the brown tree snake, an invasive species native to Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Melanesia which decimated the majority their population as well as native bird populations in Guam. Other introductions of exotic species and habitat degradation fueled the demise of the Guam flying fox. By 1968, the last female Guam flying fox was shot and there were no records of sightings afterward.

According to local lore, the Javan tigers (scientific name: Panthera tigris sondaica) were believed to be reincarnations of relatives who had passed away. They are the most recent subspecies of tiger to become extinct, with the last official observation documented in 1972. However, the last recorded sighting of the Javan tiger was in 1976 at Meru Betiri National Park.

The Javan tiger was considered small but still larger than Bali tigers, the smallest of the nine tiger subspecies, who are now also extinct. Their small size was attributed to being isolated on the small island of Java. However, they could still grow up to eight feet long, with male Javan tigers weighing between 220 to 310 pounds and females weighing between 170 to 250 pounds. The Javan tiger possessed long, thin stripes that wrapped around their bodies from head to tail and had a characteristically long and narrow nose. Their diet consisted of mainly wild boars, deer, and some reptiles and birds.

Island of Java, Indonesia

The Javan tiger was so common in Java that locals considered them as pests. However, a rapid increase in human population on Java lead to the destruction of the Javan tiger’s habitat. This destruction created increased competition for food between the Javan tiger and other populations of animals including leopards and wild dogs. With food already becoming scarce, entire populations of Rusa deer, which was the Javan tiger’s primary food source, were completely wiped out due to disease. The last of the Javan tigers were hunted and poisoned ruthlessly by armed groups who used wildlife reserves to hide in the late 1960s.

Malingping in Banten, West Java, 1941.*&search=10006636

There is a lot that remains unknown about the Golden Toad (scientific name: Incilius periglenes). It is believed that their behavior may have been similar to the Bufo holdridgei, another toad that occupied the same area as the Golden Toad, which spends a portion of the year living underground. Reproduction was a rather competitive event, due to males outnumbering females 8 to 1, with a successful mate producing anywhere from 200 to 400 eggs. Males were also often seen forming what was dubbed “toad balls”, in which a group of four to ten males would clasp on to each other during the breeding season.

The Golden Toad gets its name from the bright orange coloring which is iconic to the male toad. Females, however, were modestly dressed compared to males. They were either dark green or black and speckled with red spots outlined in yellow. These colors only developed at adulthood, making it difficult to identify the gender of young toads. Another factor that distinguished male from female was that males were slightly smaller than females, measuring only 39 to 48 millimeters compared to the 42 to 56 millimeter females.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

The Golden Toad’s extinction was rather sudden and no one really fully understood what happened to them. During breeding season, great numbers of these toads could easily be found, but by 1988 scientists only found ten and none were breeding and by 1989 there was only one left. The finishing blow was dealt by an unusually dry rainy season, which caused breeding pools to dry up before the eggs could mature. It is possible that their extinction was also affected by climate change from burning fossil fuels and deforestation of their rather limited habitat. Another theory is that a species of fungi which is damaging other amphibian populations around the world could have wiped the Golden Toad entirely.

There is little known about the Zanzibar leopard (scientific name: Panthera padres adders). The Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Project devised a leopard conservation in 1997, however, efforts were abandoned when experts failed to find any leopards. These leopards were believed to have evolved in isolation from the African leopards when the island was separated from mainland Tanzania at the end of the last Ice Age due to the rising sea levels.


Due to the separation of the Zanzibar Island from the mainland, the Zanzibar leopards grew smaller than the other African leopards to adapt to their local conditions. Other information is rather limited since there have been only five Zanzibar leopard skins located, three located in the Natural History Museum in London and the other two in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar’s growing population and agriculture were the primary causes of the leopard’s decline. They were hunted by humans and their habitat destroyed. During the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, the Zanzibar leopard was so rare that locals believed they were creatures of witches. They were considered to be to pose danger and were seen as ‘vermin’.  Kitanzi, the most famous witch-finder in Zanzibar, organized a killing campaign of anti-witchcraft and leopards which drove the Zanzibar leopards to their extinction. Attention to the situation of these leopards didn’t occur until the mid-1990s and by then, no leopards could be located.

Walsh, M.T. & Goldman, H.V. (2003). “The Zanzibar Leopard Between Science and Cryptozoology”. Nature East Africa 33 (1/2): 14–16.

The Pyrenean ibex (scientific name: Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) was one of the two extinct subspecies of Spanish ibex. The Spanish also referred to the Pyrenean ibex as “bucardo”. They were native to the mountainous Pyrenees, in Andorra, France, and Spain and preferred to inhabit rocky, mountainous terrain. Pyrenean ibexes were also found in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain and southern areas of France. The Pyrenean ibex was the first extinct animal that was resurrected by cloning, however, it died minutes after birth due to respiratory failure.


The Pyrenean ibex coat changed throughout the year to adapt the seasons. In the summer it had short fur and in the winter it grew longer with short thick wool. Its horns were very large and ridged, forming a half spiral twist. Like trees, the Pyrenean ibex formed rings in its horns marking its age; the larger the horn was, the older the ibex was.

Pyrenees, in Andorra, France and Spain

The Pyrenean ibex was abundant during the middle ages and their decline began during the 19th and 20th century. Although the real reason for their extinction is unknown, hunting, poaching, inbreeding problems, climatic conditions, and diseases all contributed to their decline. They also unsuccessfully competed for food and habitat against wild and domestic species. Although at the turn of the 20th century there were fewer than 100, conservation and preservation efforts were not established until 1993 when there were only about 10 individuals remaining. Cecilia, the 13-year-old last living Pyrenean ibex, was found dead under a fallen tree in January 2000.

The Baiji river dolphin (scientific name: Lipotes vexillifer) was a very shy freshwater dolphin which was also called the Yangtze river dolphin. They were referred to as the Goddess of the Yangtze in Chinese folklore and once were highly respected by the fishermen of the river. The Baiji dolphin lived in freshwater and was confined in the Yangtze River of China, one of the world’s busiest waterways which devastatingly affected the Baiji river dolphin and other large freshwater fish.

Observation of the Baiji dolphin was difficult because they were rare and extremely shy. The Baiji dolphin’s color was pale blue to gray on the back side and white on its belly. It had a long and slightly up-curved beak with 31 to 36 teeth on either jaw. Compared to oceanic dolphins, they had smaller eyes and were nearly blind. An adult Baiji dolphin grew to about 8 feet and weighed about 500 pounds.

Yangtze River, China

Chinese industrialization influenced the heavy decline of the Baiji River dolphins. In the 1950s, their population was estimated at 6,000 and plummeted to 400 in the late 1980s. By mid the 1990s, there were fewer than 100 Baiji river dolphins left. Their reproduction, taking 10  to 11 months, produced one calf at a time, making the recovery of this species from such low numbers difficult. The Yangtze river was heavily used for fishing as well as the production of hydroelectricity. They suffered from injuries from boat propellers and were hunted for meat and flesh for bait. Other contributions to their decline were heavy pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and shipping traffic. By 2006, they were officially declared extinct after extensive searches produced no results.

Baiji – Chinese River Dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer)

The Madeiran large white (scientific name: Pieris brassiere wollastoni) could be found on their native Madeira, an island off the coast of Portugal. They resided in the Laurel forest, also called Laurisilva, which was the only place in the world where the Madeiran large white could be found. Due to inhabiting such a small area, the Madeiran large white was one of the rarest butterflies.

Madeiran large whites had beautiful pure white wings with wide black tips on the apexes and a few spots on the fore-wings, with wingspans roughly 55 to 60 millimeters. Each year, there were two generations produced; during the spring and summer. Their eggs were laid on leaves of the food plants and hatched after a week. The caterpillars were green with black lumps and some yellow stripes on the upper portion of its body.

Madeira, Portugal

Scientist declared the Madeiran large white to be rare during the 1970s, however the species had a significant population increase during the 1980s. Their population drastically declined after the optimistic increase and never regained that progress. The main reason for their extinction is the lost of habitat, since the forest they inhabited was demolished due to logging, new homes, and businesses being built. The use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals also contributed to their decline. They were often not welcome in gardens because their caterpillars harmed crops. It is also believed that diseases and infections were introduced to the Madeiran large white when the small white was introduced to Madeira in the 1950s. They were the first butterfly in Europe to be driven to extinction.

The first species extinction in Europe

The western black rhinoceros is also known as the West African Black Rhinoceros (scientific name: Diceros bicornis longipes). Historically, its population spread across south, central, and western Africa. They were a subspecies of the Black rhino, which, as of today, are classified as “critically endangered.” During the cool temperature of morning and evening, they searched for food while they slept or wallowed during the hottest part of the day.

The western black rhinoceros measured up to 12.5 feet long and 5.6 feet tall. They were extremely large, weighing between 1,800 to 3,100 pounds. These rhinos had pointy upper lips because of their diet of trees and bushes, from plucking leaves and fruits from branches. Western black rhinoceroses had two horns, with the first longer than the second and with square base. Because they were extremely near-sighted, they relied on birds for detecting incoming threats, and also developed sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. They could track one another by following other rhinoceros scent that was left behind.

West Africa

At the turn of the 20th century, the western black rhino’s population began to decline. During the first decades, they were killed by the thousands through popular sports hunting. Industrial agriculture followed, taking over their habitat. That slaughter continued as farmers and ranchers saw them as threats to their crops. Their numbers drastically dropped after Mao Zedong promoted the traditional Chinese medicine. Poachers sold their horns and poaching became an easy source of money since punishments were rare. Preservations attempted to save the western black rhinoceros during the 1930s and their population increased but declined again after failed protection efforts. By the 1980s their population decreased to hundreds, and ten survived by 2000. The western black rhino was last seen in western Africa in 2006.

Rhino Wars II by Brent Stirton (

“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.”

― Steve Irwin