Image: Photographer unknown
Last Thylacine yawning: Note the unusual extent to which it was able to open its jaws
From panthers and pandas to rhinos and tigers, dwindling animal numbers speak of the need to step up conservation efforts – if it’s not already too late. As a kind of wake-up call, we decided to take a look at seven extinct species captured on camera. With modern photography having only been invented in the 1820s, these snapshots are visible testament to just how recently the creatures shown were wiped out – and a jarring reminder of the precarious situation for many species still left on the planet.
1. The Tarpan
Tarpan at the Moscow Zoo, published 1884
The last Tarpan died on a Ukrainian game preserve at Askania Nova in 1876. A prehistoric type of wild horse that once roamed from Southern France and Spain eastwards to central Russia, the Tarpan died out in the wild in the late 1800s. Reasons for its extinction include the destruction of its forest and steppe habitat to make room for people; hunting by farmers averse to their crops being eaten and mares stolen; and absorption into a growing domestic horse population. There have been various attempts to recreate the Tarpan through re-breeding, resulting in horses that do at least resemble their extinct forebears.
Image: F. York
2. The Quagga
Quagga at London’s Regent’s Park Zoo, 1870
Another extinct equine beast – this time a subspecies of zebra – the last wild Quagga was probably shot in the late 1870s, while the last specimen in captivity died in 1883 at Artis Magistra Zoo in Amsterdam. Once abundant in southern Africa, the Quagga fell victim to ruthless hunting for its meat and hide, and because it was seen by settlers as a competitor to livestock like sheep. It was the coat of the Quagga that distinguished it best, with only the front part of its body showing the zebra’s vivid striped markings. As with the Tarpan, projects to breed back the Quagga have produced favourable results, visually at least.