Taxidermy Articles

Taxidermy Articles

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Taxidermy Articles

We get asked to recommend Taxidermy Resources and Taxidermy information to our friends.This page offers a glimpse of the future. Whilst the Victorians Taxidermist killed birds and mammals directly for the production of dioramas as was then the fashion, we have either intentionally or by neglect caused massive disrutpion in the Earth's fragile ecosystem in the last 100 years. An interesting fact is that 82 million barrels of oil are consumed daily. This oil is finite, with no practical alternative in the pipeline. We are a Hydrocarbon based economy whether we like it or not. We are all in for significant change in the future. In ecological / geological terms, that changes is merely seconds away. For example, the grains of sand on a beach may exist in a phenomenal quantity, but if just an eggcup of sand is removed from the beach every day, in geological time the beach will disappear in an instant. Such is the power of time Lets hope we are prepared. Lets hope our children are prepared.

Fools Crow, Ceremonial Chief of the Teton Sioux

"Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

But what of the future, very GLOOMY I am afraid to say.

Some English Statistics from David Leggett of Wild Art Taxidermy in Cambridge, UK.

Since 1959, over 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) of roads and highways have been built in Britain. Before 1954 the proportion of recorded barn owl deaths due to road traffic stood at six percent. By the 1990s, says the study, this had risen to 50 percent. During the same period U.K. traffic volume rose ten-fold. The barn owl was Britain's most common owl in the early 19th century. Today things are very different; only an estimated 4,000 breeding pairs remain. Though other factors, such as habitat loss, have played their part, conservationists say these road losses have had a huge impact. This isn't to say other raptors haven't suffered on the roads. Leggett points to studies that suggest that in some years more than 100,000 immature tawny owls (Strix aluco) are killed by traffic. This species has around 75,000 breeding pairs, however, and seems able to absorb such losses. After owls, U.K. government figures identify kestrels, common buzzards, and peregrine falcons as other raptors most likely to end up as roadkill

First European bird to become extinct for 150 years

By Brian Unwin of the Independent
A rare species of curlew is in grave danger of becoming the first European bird to die out since the great auk more than 150 years ago. Only nine slender-billed curlews - which breed in Russia and central Asia and winter in places such as the Mediterranean - are known to have been seen throughout the world last year.
A smaller cousin of the familiar Eurasian Curlew, one of Britain's best-known wetland birds, the slender-billed has for several years been classed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. "I suspect that, without a miracle, it will become extinct in the next decade," said Dr Will Cresswell, an Oxford University ornithology lecturer. "One characteristic of species with very low populations - and in the case of Slender-billed Curlew there could be as few as 50 left - is they bump along for years and then something happens and they vanish for good."
Dr Cresswell was part of an expedition which spent ten weeks searching the Kustani, Petyropavlovsk and Pavlodar regions of Kazakhstan for the nesting grounds. Not one was found. In fact, no one has set eyes on a slender-billed curlew's nest since 1924 when one was discovered in Russia. A big problem for conservationists is the mystery over the bird's movements and the precise whereabouts of its breeding grounds and winter haunts.
The latest edition of Birding World magazine reports sightings of the species last year in only three locations. During April birds turned up at two places in northern Greece, with up to five at Porto Lagos and three on Lake Mitrikou. The only other report was of one Druridge Bay, Northumberland, in May - which, if accepted by the British Birds Rarities Committee, was the first sighting in the UK.
The last known regular winter haunt in the world was the Merdja Zerga, a large tidal lagoon on the north-west African coast between Tangier and Rabat. But each year the number decreased until there was only one, which left in late February, 1995, to begin its long spring migration to Russia's steppes. It did not return in the autumn. The same year up to 19 were also present at a site in southern Italy up to late March, but they did not return in subsequent winters.

Victorian slender billed Curlew

Victorian case of Male Crossbill in close up by FC Waters of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. Once very common in Scotland, now due to habitat destruction becoming increasingly rare. Habitat destrcution is a silent form of eradication. One that does not require a gun or malicious intent. Many link this to commerce of a "developing world", the outcome however is still the same. Taidermy may yet be the only reminder.

Britain's acknowledged world expert on Slender-billed Curlews is Adam Gretton, now with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, who has been on three expeditions to Siberia and one to Kazakhstan looking for nesting birds without success. In 1994 he estimated the population to be between 50 and 270 birds but their status could be worse now. He said: "Ten years ago there were up to a dozen records a year internationally. But now that is down to two or three the situation is very worrying. However, there is a ray of hope. There could be birds wintering regularly in places where access is difficult.
"It is possible there could be regular wintering in Algeria, Iraq and Iran which, because of the political situation, have become no-go areas for people studying birds. However, the situation is improving in Iran so it may be possible before too long for an expedition to go in there to look for possible sites. Mr Gretton pointed out: "The other problem continues to be finding their breeding territory. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's somewhere on a marshy steppe east of the Ural Mountains, but finding a diminishing population in such as vast region is very difficult." Slender-billed Curlews are generally about 20% smaller than Eurasian Curlews and their long, curved bill is more delicate but superficially they are very similar and can only be told apart through careful examination. This adds to the problem. Mr Gretton said at least 17 birds were known to have been killed by hunters in the past 20 years. It was difficult to prevent this happening when they looked so similar to Eurasian Curlews which are a popular target of hunters. * The Great Auk, a flightless seabird resembling a very large Razorbill had no defence against human predators and became extinct in 1844 when the last pair were killed on a small island off Iceland. The last one in Britain died on St Kilda, the remote Scottish island group, in 1840. Two islanders beat it to death, believing it to be a witch.
The Independent on Wednesday - 10th February 1999

New Zealand Huia

Extinction of the huia (Heteralocha acutirostris) in 1907 was a tragic loss to New Zealand's ancient native avifauna. It serves as a reminder of the importance of bird protection. While today we are astounded by the ruthless hunting of huia to extinction during a very short period, and the ignorance of the time, even amongst respected ornithologists, we are left with no excuse for more bird losses with current knowledge of the value of biodiversity. The huia was probably New Zealand's most eccentric bird. It was a large 48 cm (19 inch) black bird with a bright orange "wattle" at the base of an ivory beak. It had a distinguishing wide band of white at the end of its long tail feathers. Huia were so sexually dimorphic, and unique because of the different beak forms of the male and female, that they were at first thought to be separate species. They were normally found feeding in pairs. In cooperative roles, the male used his short strong beak, which resembled the beak of a starling, to break up rotting tree trunks in search of huhu bugs and other insects. The female used her long curved beak, which was like a nectar feeder's, to reach into otherwise unreachable places. A Rotorua ranger, William Cobeldick, spotted a huia pair near Lake Waikareiti, and a lone huia at Taharua Stream in the Urewera National Park in 1924, but it had been declared extinct many years before this. The wattlebirds of New Zealand are not found anywhere else in the world, and the huia was unique as the only bird in the world with completely different beak forms in the male and female. The ancient Callaeidae family flew to New Zealand 60 million years ago, and like many of the birds in the isolated archipelago, huia adopted ground feeding habits in an ecology devoid of mammals.

Study Skin of a New Zealand Huia

New Zealand Huia, by John Gould

The Passenger Pigeon

The Passenger Pigeon, once probably the most numerous bird on the planet, made its home in the billion or so acres of primary forest that once covered North America east of the Rocky Mountains. Their flocks, a mile wide and up to 300 miles long, were so dense that they darkened the sky for hours and days as the flock passed overhead. Early explorers and settlers frequently mentioned passenger pigeons in their writings. Samuel de Champlain in 1605 reported "countless numbers," Gabriel Sagard-Theodat wrote of "infinite multitudes," and Cotton Mather described a flight as being about a mile in width. Population estimates from the 19th century ranged from 1 billion to close to 4 billion individuals. Total populations may have reached 5 billion individuals and comprised up to 40% of the total number of birds in North America.

Great flock as the wildlife artist Audobon and taxidermist Henry Ward would have witnessed. None are alive today.

The notable decrease of passenger pigeons started when professional hunters began netting and shooting the birds to sell in the city markets. Although the birds always had been used as food to some extent, even by the Indians, the real slaughter began in the 1800s.One of the last large nestings of passenger pigeons occurred at Petoskey, Michigan, in.1878.
Here 50,000 birds per day were killed and this rate continued for nearly five months. When the adult birds that survived this massacre attempted second nestings at new sites, they were soon located by the professional hunters and killed before they had a chance to raise any young. None are alive today????????. A truly spectacular piece of extermination.)


Passenger Pigeons of North America, now extinct due to man's wanton extermination of a single species. Victorian case

There were many theories as to why the Passenger Pigeon completely disappeared and all but one can be discounted as untrue. The multi-millions of Passenger Pigeons in North American gave man the impression that it was an inexhaustible natural resource. The best rational for the Pigeon's demise, can be found the the writings of Margaret Mitchell, in The Passenger Pigeon in Ontario.
While there were many factors that played a role in the fate of the Passenger Pigeon, there is no doubt that man played the pivotal role which ultimately brought the bird to extinction. For each species (bird or other animal) there is an optimum number, a density for the population to thrive at its best, both a maximum population and just as important, a minimal population. It's easy to see how there can be a maximum population for any organism. Their natural environment can only support a certain number. Beyond that number the population suffers, there are losses through natural means that the number returns to what can be sustained by nature. However, a minimum number can be just as critical to a species, a number that below which, there is an insufficient population to sustain the species and it cannot survive.

Many thanks Garrie P Landry for the pictures and text.

It is now generally accepted that the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was due to the loss of their numbers below the minimum at which the species could exist. No one has yet given a satisfactory explanation, except that a psychological effect appears to be involved. The Passenger Pigeon. it seems was a bird used to living in the "grand manner" who's way of life was so upset and reduced that it could not carry on under such circumstances. Such is not the case with all species as some species are capable of responding to favorable conditions and become numerous again. Apparently the Passenger Pigeon lacked this adaptability. There is no doubt in the author's mind that this upsetting of the balance of life (of the pigeon) was the final factor contributing to its extinction The pigeons were subjected to shooting on the widest and most devastating scale. They were never free from persecution at any time of the year. The were hunted in spring at the beginning of nesting which was most disastrous, where the fat squabs were always considered a delicacy, later young birds in summer were much sought after, and finally adults were taken at all times. The pigeon had no peace.
Wrote one visiting french naturalist as early as 1850, "This variety of game [passenger pigeon] in America is threatened with destruction. Everything leads to the belief that the pigeons, which cannot endure isolation, will eventually disappear from this continent. And if the world endures a century longer, I will wager that the amateur of ornithology will find no pigeons except in select museums of Natural History." How unfortunate for us all that his words became truth.

Eskimo Curlew

Eskimo Curlew by John Audubon

At one time, the Eskimo Curlew may have been one of the most numerous shorebirds in North America with a population in the millions. As many as 2 million birds per year were killed near the end of the 19th century. The last confirmed sightings were in 1962 on Galveston Island, Texas (photographed) and on Barbados in 1963 (specimen).
In the fall, large numbers of Eskimo Curlews would historically gather along a 160 km stretch of the Labrador coast with plentiful crowberry shrubs (known in Labrador as curlew berry). In impressive displays of gluttony, early reports describe curlews with feathers stained purple from the juice of these berries. Eskimo Curlews would also forage for snails and mollusks and other invertebrates along the coastline. This intensive feeding helped these birds build up the fat stores necessary to make their arduous non-stop journey to South America.

Eskimo Curlew cabinet skins.

Once abundant, the Eskimo Curlew has not been reliably sighted in 30 - 40 years. Occasional reports of this species leave open the possibility that a very small population may still exist in the wild, but most authorities consider this species extinct. Like the Passenger Pigeon, market hunting of this species led to dramatic declines in the last few decades of the 1800's. Whereas flocks of thousands of Eskimo Curlews were not uncommon in the mid-1800's, by 1900 observations of small groups anywhere in the Americas was considered a rare event. Although hunting was one reason for their decline, it seems the combined impacts of other concurrent factors prevented a recovery for this species.
In the mid-1800's, huge flocks of Eskimo Curlew migrated north from South America to their nesting grounds in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. Historic reports tell of the skies being full of Eskimo Curlews as they migrated through the prairie states and provinces. One historic report describes a single flock feeding in Nebraska that was said to have covered 40 to 50 acres of ground. During migration, they fed on grasshoppers and other insects on the grasslands of the central United States.

Eskimo Curlew

Between 1870 and 1890, unrestricted hunting rapidly reduced populations of Eskimo Curlew. Considered very good to eat, the birds were killed by thousands of market hunters, just as the Passenger Pigeon had been years earlier. The curlew's lack of fear and habit of traveling in large flocks made it an easy target.

Eskimo Curlew

Large scale hunting in the 1870's, 80's and 90's was a primary cause of the decline of this species. However, other concurrent events may have hampered the recovery of this species once the market gunning declined. The suppression of fires, near extirpation of bison, and other alteration of the prairie grassland ecosystems by waves of human settlers in the late 1800's reduced foraging habitat for spring migrants. Conversion of grasslands to agricultural lands may have also contributed to the decline of grasshoppers (notably the Rocky Mountain Locust), a primary food source for the curlew.
If a population of Eskimo Curlews still exists, it is bound to be very small (most estimates are all under 100 individuals), and highly susceptible to a single catastrophic event. Continued habitat alteration in areas once used as migratory stopovers and mining and petroleum extraction prospects in arctic breeding grounds would also be a threat to remaining individuals. There was an unconfirmed report of 23 birds in Texas in 1981, and more recent additional unconfirmed reports from Texas, Canada (1987), and Argentina (1990). The Eskimo curlew was thought to be totally gone by 1940 but a few periodic sightings since then have kept them from being declared extinct. With a population less than 100 the species does not have sufficient genetic material to sustain itself. So if not extinct it might as well be.

Carolina Parakeet

Carolina Parakeet recased by Barry Williams

The Carolina Parakeet died out because of a number of different threats. To make space for more agricultural land, large areas of forest were cut down, taking away its living space. The colorful feathers (green body, yellow head, and red around the bill) were in demand as decorations in ladies' hats, and the birds were kept as pets. Even though the birds bred easily in captivity, little was done by owners to increase the population of tamed birds. Finally, they were killed in large numbers because farmers considered them a pest, although many farmers valued them for controlling invasive cockleburs. A factor that contributed to their extinction was the unfortunate flocking behavior that led them to return immediately to a location where some of the birds had just been killed. This led to even more being shot by hunters as they gathered about the wounded and dead members of the flock. The last wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County in Florida in 1913, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. This was the male specimen "Incas," who died within a year of his mate "Lady Jane."

Labrador Duck

Extinct Labrador Duck

The Labrador duck was a small ocean duck. It was mostly found on sandy beaches around the ocean. It existed along the Atlantic coast from New Brunswick to Chesapeake Bay. It comes from Canada but it was also found in Maine. It didn’t move that far away from the ocean.The Labrador duck built a nest of large fir twigs. Its nesting habits are though to have generally resembled those of eiders.
This migratory bird probably bred along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Coastal Labrador, Canada. In the winter Labrador Duck migrated south to the coasts of New England, New Jersey and Long Island, it could than be found from Nova Scotia south to Chesapeake Bay, USA. These birds could be found in sandy sheltered bays, inlets, harbours, and estuaries and on sandbars.

Extinct Labrador Duck

The Labrador duck was apparently rare, even at the time of its discovery. The numbers of this rare species decreased further between 1850 and 1870. The last record of a Labrador Duck was a male that was caught in the autumn of 1875 in the waters near Long Island, New York. This specimen is now in the United States National Museum in Washington and has the number 77126. Another duck was said to have been shot three years later, on 2 December 1878 near Elmira, New York. However, this cannot be verified, since the specimen is lost.
"Somewhere around 1735 when George Washington and Bonnie Prince Charles were both boys, a few fishing boat owners along the New England coast decided to go into the feather business. Their fishing crews that went up to the Newfoundland Banks knew all about the vast, the literally countless flocks or herds of ducks that nested on the islands along the St. lawrence Gulf, along Labrador and around Newfoundland. These fisherman, like their pre-decessors in the trade right back to Jacques Cartier, used to depend on these wildfowl colonies for a good deal of their provisions while at sea fishing. All the sailors had bunk ticks of down. They used to bring home bales of eiderdown for domestic use. So the businessmen of new England organized the business. They outfitted ships expressly to go north, in spring, to these nesting grounds of the countless multitudes of wildfowl and to bring home shiploads of feathers. Not only America, but Europe and Asia, developed rapidly into customers of the trade. the whole world slept in feathers.
The competing ships made short work of the wild treasure. The crews would invade an island, encircle the ducks, flightless at this season, drive them into a huddle and slaughter them not by the thousands but by the hundreds of thousands. It is all on record. In twenty years between 1740 and 1760, they had exterminated the Labrador duck, a few of which lingered on for nearly a century, the last Labrador duck falling to a gunner near new York City in 1875. But the various eiders and other waterfowl that had been one of natures massive glories, like the buffalo and the redwood forests, were reduced to a shadow. All in twenty years. All by a few companies of business adventurers. Over and over again, the story of man's ravenous talent for exploitation has been and is being demonstrated. But nothing quite equals in ferocity the feather trade of 1740-1760.""
The causes of extinction of this sea duck are not exactly known. Like any other waterfowl, it was occasionally hunted, and even offered for sale at the meat markets of New York and Baltimore, despite the unappetizing taste. Shooting and trapping on the winter quarters were certainly proximate factors in the species’ extinction. Overharvest of birds and eggs on the breeding grounds could also have been a factor. Another cause can be the increasing human influence on the coastal ecosystems of eastern North America. That may have caused a change in the molluscan fauna, which eventually may have been fatal to this small duck.
54 specimens of the Labrador Duck are preserved in museum collections. The largest collection containing ten specimens, is in the American Museum of Natural History in New York

Victorian Taxidermy

The Scottish Wildcat

In Scotland the wildcat became extinct in the Lothians before 1800 and by 1830 it was absent from almost the whole of the south of Scotland and from Nairn, Moray and Banff. In Dumfries and Galloway, the last wildcat was killed at Balmaangan in 1810 or 1820. The final wildcat bastion in the south was Berwickshire where they had been numerous in the 1800s, the last animal being sighted near Old Cambus in 1849. By 1882, there were no wildcats to the south of Argyll and Perthshire, where they were confined to the most remote and mountainous regions. The last wildcat in Aberdeenshire was killed in 1875 in Glen Tanar, and by 1882 the wildcat was becoming scare in Inverness-shire. Only in the far north, in Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland was it still abundant. In 1887 the wildcat was reported to be declining in Sutherland and in 1904 it was regarded as rare in Ross. In 1920 the wildcat was reported to be still present in Wester Ross, Sutherland, Inverness and Argyll, but the authors were not optimistic about its future. The wildcat looked set to follow the polecat and disappear from the list of Scottish fauna.

The Scottish Wildcat, with Grouse Prey. Preserved by Peter Spicer. This is a Victorian case.

Ironically, it was the outbreak of war which ultimately saved the Scottish wildcat from extinction, when many gamekeepers left the estates to fight in Flanders in 1914. Since the end of the war there has been a gradual decrease in activity by gamekeepers and the wildcat has been spreading south again. Unfortunately, records for this post-war period are sparse compared to the intense interest in Natural History which characterized the Victorian and Edwardians eras. However, from the available records it is clear that the wildcat reacted very quickly to the relaxation of persecution. By 1919 the wildcat had become re-established in Perthshire after an absence of 19 years and by 1935 it had recolonised Stirlingshire, Banffshire, and Dunbartonshire. It reappeared in Moray, Nairn and Aberdeenshire between 1920 and 1946, and Kincardineshire and Angus between 1946 and 1962.
The wildcat has also started to expand south of the Clyde and Forth with a sighting just 40 miles from Edinburgh in 1963 and another in Lanarkshire in 1971.The wildcat had survived the threat to its existence, which was posed by game keeping and is now protected by law. However, the wildcat is still under threat from another animal - the domestic cat. Interbreeding between domestic cats and the wildcat is believed by many to be a recent problem. The British Nature Conservancy Council reported on its study into interbreeding and concluded that as a result of less intense persecution, wild cats were increasing in Scotland, where they had been all but exterminated by 1900. However, as long as wildcats were confined to remote areas their genetic integrity was probably secure, as the wildcats were unlikely to come into contact with domestic cats.

The Quagga of South Africa

The Quagga was a southern subspecies of the plain zebra with withers of 1.30 meter. It differed from other zebras mainly in having been striped on the head, neck, and front portion of its body only, and having been brownish, rather than white, in its upper parts. The name Quagga has been adopted from the Hottentot speaking indigenous people of the South African interior. 'Quagga' is an imitation of the animal's call, which it shared with the other plain zebras.The last free Quaggas may have been caught in 1870.


Captive Quagga in London Zoo, 1871. Now Extinct.

Possible, a small population survived south of the Vaal river until about 1878, when there was a period of severe drought. The last captive Quagga, a mare, died on 12 August 1883 in Amsterdam Zoo, where she had lived since 9 May 1867. It was not realised that this Quagga mare was the very last of her kind. Because of the confusion caused by the indiscriminate use of the term "Quagga" for any zebra, the true Quagga was hunted to extinction without this being realised until many years later. The Quagga went extinct because it was ruthless hunted down for meat and leather by South African farmers, also were they seen by the settlers as competitors, like other wild grass eating animals, for of their livestock, mainly sheep and goats.

Auckland Island Merganser

"Mergus australis" was restricted to the Auckland Islands, New Zealand, by the time of its discovery in 1840, but subfossil remains of a Mergus species have also been found on South and Stewart Islands. It was largely a freshwater species, foraging in inland streams, estuaries and, occasionally, sheltered bays. Its decline was presumably caused by a combination of hunting and predation by introduced pigs, rats, cats and dogs—the species' incipient flightlessness made it especially vulnerable. At least 26 specimens were collected in total, the last in 1902; there have been no records since, despite intensive searches.

The Tazmanian Tiger

The Tasmanian Tiger died out on the Australian mainland and New Guinea due to the competition of the dingo that was brought there by the aborigines. The last remaining population on Tasmania declines after the arrival of the Europeans, and finally died out, due to extensive (bounty) hunting, habitat destruction, disease, and competition with domesticated dogs.

Tazmanian Tiger, which is actually a marscupial. Now Extinct.

The last confirmed report of a Thylacine in the wild was in 1930. The last captive animal was recorded as dying in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Occasional reports of sightings since that time have not been confirmed and several organized searches for the animal have failed to find conclusive evidence of the species' existence.

Cabinet skins of Tazmanian Tigers. Pityful remnants of a now extinct marscupial.

Tazmanian Tiger, which is actually a marscupial. Now Extinct.

Tazmanian Tiger, which is actually a marscupial. Now Extinct.

Tazmanian Tiger hunting. Now Extinct.

Tazmanian pup, which is actually a marscupial. Now Extinct.


The first half of the the 19th Century was the "Golden Age of Whaling," with about 740 Atlantic whaling ships operating from East Coast American ports alone. During this period, the sperm whale was the most sought-after, because of the quantity of oil it contained, and because it floated when killed, whereas most species sink to the bottom. The first whalers had entered the Pacific Ocean in 1788 in their quest for new fields, but not until trans-continental railways allowed quicker access to the large markets of Europe and the eastern U.S. did whaling expand into the Northwest coast.
While whaling could be extremely profitable, it was also very dangerous; in September 1871, 32 of the 41 ships whaling in the Bering Sea were trapped by early ice, forcing 1,200 people, including some women and children, to flee in small boats across up to 60 miles of ice-choked seas to reach safety. All but one of the ships, the Minerva, were crushed by the ice and lost the following spring. Salvage crews were, however, able to save 1,300 barrels of oil and $10,000 worth of baleen from the wrecks; the local Eskimos salvaged a great deal of material from the wrecks, but some of them died after drinking from bottles they found in the ships' medicine chests. Five years later, another twelve whaleships were lost near Point Barrow; this time, 50 men died trying to escape. Soon after the turn of the century, the signs became clear that the boom years of whaling were gone forever. By 1907, the price of baleen had dropped from a high of $7 per pound, to 50 cents; two years later, the market had virtually disappeared as spring steel and other metals replaced baleen. At the same time, improved petroleum distillation techniques were rapidly lowering demand for whale oil. Some recovery in the market for whale products was regained by using various parts of the whale for dog food, and grinding up the rest for fertilizer.
Although the Bering and Beaufort Seas had been two of the prime whaling grounds in the world, virtually all of the handful of remaining whalemen gave up in 1912 due to the dwindling market and increasing costs of doing business in the Arctic. Operating costs, however, were much lower in Southeast Alaska, and dozens of whaling stations operated there well into the 1930s. Greatly improved equipment in the 1920s and 1930s, including the use of huge factory ships which could process the whales at sea, increased the slaughter to such a degree that world-wide attention began to focus on the possibility of hunting several species of whales to extinction. In 1937, the first International Whaling Agreement was signed by several nations, including the United States. Although Alaskan Eskimos are allowed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to kill 50 bowhead whales each year, there is presently a great deal of controversy surrounding a Canadian decision to allow traditional hunting by their Inuit peoples; Canada resigned from the IWC in 1982, and thus does not have international approval for the two whales killed last year.

Countdown to Extinction. Today's Position and Events

By the end of the century one in 10 species of birds in the world will be extinct and a further 15 per cent will be on the brink, according to one of the largest studies of avian biodiversity. It is estimated just over 1 per cent of bird species have become extinct in the past 500 years but habitat loss, disease and climate change will accelerate that tenfold in the next 100 years.
Stanford University in California found that the loss of birds will not only have an impact on other wildlife but could also increase the risk of disease hitting the human population. The report cites the recent decline of three species of Indian vulture, caused by the widespread use of a veterinary drug by local cattle farmers. The decline led to an explosion in the population of feral dogs feeding off dead cows, leading to 30,000 cases of human rabies a year.
"Our projections indicate that, by 2100, up to 14 per cent of species may be extinct and one in four may be functionally extinct, that is critically endangered or extinct in the wild," said Cagan Sekercioglu, who led researchers in the study. Functionally extent means that the genetic integrity of the species is so badly damaged (genetic inbreeding will occur), that even with intensive conservation attempts it will die out. "Even though only 1.3 per cent of bird species have gone extinct since 1500, the global number of individual birds is estimated to have experienced a 20 to 25 per cent reduction during the same period," he said.

A total of 11,046 species of plants and animals are threatened, facing a high risk of extinction in the near future, in almost all cases as a result of human activities. This includes 24 percent (one in four) of mammal species and 12 percent (one in eight) of bird species. The total number of threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 5,435. Indonesia, India, Brazil and China are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and birds, while plant species are declining rapidly in South and Central America, Central and West Africa, and Southeast Asia. Habitat loss and degradation affect 89 percent of all threatened birds, 83 percent of mammals, and 91 percent of threatened plants assessed. Habitats with the highest number of threatened mammals and birds are lowland and mountain tropical rainforest. Freshwater habitats are extremely vulnerable with many threatened fish, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species.


Passenger Pigeons of North America, now extinct due to man's wanton extermination of a single species. Victorian case

"Given the momentum of climate change, widespread habitat loss and increasing numbers of invasive species, avian declines and extinctions are predicted to continue unabated in the near future," he added. The study involved analysis of all 9787 species of birds alive today, and of the 129 species that have gone extinct recently, to produce one of the most comprehensive databases ever compiled into the state of one class of animals.
Using a computer forecast, based on present rates of decline, the researchers found that just over one in four species is now prone to extinction and 6.5 per cent are "functionally extinct". A quarter of fruit-eaters and omnivores are in danger, along with a third of herbivores, fish-eaters and scavengers. In the worst-case scenario put forward in the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers predict that threatened bird species will increase by 1 per cent each decade.
"These assumptions are conservative, since it is estimated that every year natural habitats and dependent vertebrate populations decrease by an average of 1.1 per cent," the study said. Gretchen Daily, a member of the research team, said it might be difficult to imagine how the loss of a particular species of bird can cause an outbreak of human disease. "Yet consider the case of the passenger pigeon. Its loss is thought to have made Lyme's disease the huge problem it is today. "When passenger pigeons were abundant and they used to occur in unimaginably large flocks of hundreds of millions of birds, the acorns on which they specialised would have been too scarce to support the large populations of deer mice, the main reservoir of Lyme's disease, that thrive on them today," said Professor Daily


Great Auks, now extinct. Adult on the rock with egg and young placed in water below

Auks are a common group of marine birds comprising 22 species, and include guillemots and puffins. The largest species, the Great Auk, became extinct in 1844. Auks are weak fliers, (the Great Auk was completely flightless), but excellent underwater swimmers. When submerged, they propel themselves with their wings, steering with the feet. The legs are near the tail, giving the birds an upright posture on land, like that of a penguin. Living auks weigh from 90 grams to 1 kg. The Great Auk weighed 5 kg. Auks apparently originated near the Bering Sea, and presently occur in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. The Great Auk inhabited temperate and subarctic waters (Northern Britain, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland), moving further south in winter. Except during the breeding season, auks live in the open sea. The diet of auks consists principally of fish, but also includes many other types of marine organisms. Most auk species breed in large colonies, choosing coastal cliff ledges, crevices, and burrows for their nests. Males and females share the task of incubating the one or two eggs, a process which requires four to six weeks. Depending on the species, the chicks remain in the nest for a period of two to fifty days.
Some recent departures, NEVER to be seen again

Layson Honeyeater Himatiore sanquinea Extinct since about 1923 when the last 3 specimens were seen by the Tanoger Exhibition of the US Biological Society. Several searches were made in the 30s and 40s, but no further birds were found. Their extinction was a result of habitat destruction resulting from the introduction of rabbits to Layson Island in 1903 for commercial reasons. The birds (redbirds as they were known) were endemic to Layson Island.
Ula-Ai-Hawane Aridops anna Extinct, an endemic to the island of Hawaii, the last specimen was caught on 20 February 1892 on Mount Kohala. This was a small finch-like bird predominantly black and grey in colouration, with a reddish rump. It lived in mountain forests.
3 species of Psittirostra (palmeri, flaviceps and kona) are presumed extinct - another 2 (P. psittacea and P. bailleui) are extremely rare and endangered. All have extremely solid, large seed-cracking beaks. For P. palmeri the last reliable record is in 1896. It was found only in Koa forests of Hawaii at about 4000 feet elevation. It was the largest of the group measuring 8.5 inches long. The bird was easily recognised because of its colourful plumage, the male had a orange head, olive back, pale orange rump and yellow breast and belly - females similar except head yellow and back greener.
P. flaviceps. Extinct, another endemic to Hawaii, the last specimen was seen in October 1891. Physically the bird was similar to P. palmeri but smaller lived on the same Koa forests. It fed on seeds.
P. kora Extinct last seen in 1894 when they were already rare and restricted to an area about 4 miles square on the island of Hawaii. They were known to feed on the dry fruits of the Bastard Sandalwood trees. They were about 7 inches long, olive-green with a very large bill.
Drepanis pacifica Common mamo Extinct, last seen in 1898 at above the town of Hilo in Hawaii. An attractive bird with a long thin downward curving beak. Trapped regularly by the natives for its feathers. It is however likely, that as with the other species in this group, that habitat destruction, introduced predators, and disease were primarily responsible for its extinction. Feathers almost entirely black except for a few yellow feathers on rump, wing and under-tail coverts. Fed on nectar.
Drepanis funerea Extinct = Black mamo = last specimen taken in 1907. Confined to the island of Molokai. Similar to the above D. pacifica except no yellow and with a hint of grey on the outer edges of the primaries. Fed on nectar. Introduced brown rats and mongooses are the presumed causes of extinction.
Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius Description about 12 inches long and typical pigeon shape and colours and rump and upper tail covets Bluish Grey, Upper back with some iridescent remiges lower back and wing covets brownish grey, Secondaries browner grey, primaries similar to secondaries but with a clear white edge. Tail feathers white except for the middle 2 which were grey. Breast cinnamon-rufous in upper parts becoming paler on lower. Bill black, feed red, eyes orange. Wing length 196-214 mm tail 173-211 mm. This bird lived mainly in deciduous forests in what is now mainland USA exhibiting a North/South migration every year with the summer northerly limit being southern Canada, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec and the southern limit being Appalachians in north Virginia SW to northern Mississippi. Winter northerly limit was Indiana, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts normally, and southern limit being the Gulf of Mexico though stray birds were recorded in Bermuda and even Europe. The most unusual thing about this bird was its colonial nesting and the huge flocks it used to migrate in. Reasonable estimates suggest 2000 million birds in one flock so the populations in N. America was not small. The population appears to have undergone periodic fluctuations with some years of excessive numbers where nesting sites were measured in hundreds of square miles and years in between of less extreme numbers. Insufficient data are available to explain these fluctuations but they undoubtedly contributed to the ease with which this once extremely numerous bird was extirpated. Last specimen (Martha)died on September 1914 in Cincinnati (Ohio) Zoological Gardens. The last certified wild specimen was taken between September 9-15 1899. The bird was a herbivore, feeding mostly on oak and beech mast as well as seeds and fruits of other deciduous trees. It only ever laid one egg per season in captivity, though there are reports of it laying two eggs per nest at least occasionally in the wild.
The Great Auk, Alca impennis Last known specimens killed at Edley Rock, Iceland in 1844. This was a large flightless seabird feeding on fish and eels and nesting on a number of rocky islands in the north Atlantic particularly Gunk Island where the last known breeding colony was exterminated between 1785 and 1841. The birds were killed by seamen for food and by fishermen for food and for use as bait. The largest of the Auks, Great Auks measured about 30 inches (75 cm) long with a black head and back and white front. The bill was large as in all Auks and their feet webbed, they had a white spat before the eye on either side of the face. Wings dark brown with secondaries having white tips. Eye chestnut. The white spat was only present in summer and the dark brown/black of the chin and throat are white. Breeding probably occurred from May-July when the female laid one egg, incubation took about 30 days - we really know very little about it.
Bonin Wood Pigeon, Columba versicolor Extinct since 1889. Last specimen taken on the Japanese Island of Nakondo Shima. A pale wood pigeon with a metallic golden-purple back and head, green neck and rump. Feeding and ecology similar to most wood pigeons. It was endemic to just a few islands in the Baum Island archipelago south of Japan, Nakondo Shima, Peel Island and Kittlitz. It is believed that habitat destruction was the main cause of extinction.
Tahitian Sandpiper, Prosobonia leucoptera Extinct since probably the late 1700s early 1800s,this species was/is known from only one specimen in a museum in Leyden, Holland. It was a small 7 inches long dark brown bird turning rusty on lower portions. It was an endemic of Tahiti and Eimes and apparently frequented small streams. It is believed that it was the introduction of rats and pigs to the islands where it lived that caused its demise.
Crested Sheldrake or Shellduck, Tadorna cristata Extinct (probably), last seen 1916 when a specimen was taken near Fusan, Korea. Searches in more recent years have failed to find any other specimens. It is not known what its full range was, it was known from Korea and Japan and was painted by Japanese artists. It is supposed to have bred in eastern Siberia. Similar in size to the common shellduck/drake (Tadorna tadorna) it had a distinctive head, green on top and grey below in the male and black on top whitish below in the female, otherwise it had a green lower need and upper chest, the rest of the chest, the back and the belly being dark grey otherwise similar to a common Sheldrake (That was the male). The female differs by having a black ring around the eye. No opinions have been offered that I know of to explain its extinction though hunting must be a prime candidate.
The Cuban Red Macaw = Guacamayo = Ara tricolor Now extinct, it was last seen in 1864. an endemic to Cuba, it was small, 20 cms long, mostly red and yellow with some blue and purple. They lived in the vicinity of the Zapata Swamp and nested in holes in palm trees. Though the natives were believed to eat them no reasons are recorded for their extinction.
Guadeloupe Island Caracara Polyborus lutosus Last seen 1 December 1900 this was a large brown hawk endemic to Guadeloupe, it had a black head and a grey tail and is believed to have descended from Polyborus prelutosus. It was a generalist predator and fed on anything that was available from insects, worms and shellfish to small birds and mammals. The natives bred goats and believed that the birds killed the kids so for this reason the natives hunted it ruthlessly. In the 1800's guns and poisons became easier and cheaper to acquire and gave the natives the ability to exterminate the birds. This is one of the few, if not the only case of a bird species being deliberately brought to extinction. In this case it is perhaps ironic that the goats its extermination was designed to protect were an introduced species already doing considerable damage to the environment.
Mysterious Starling Aplonis mavornata This extinct bird is known on from one specimen in the British Museum. Nothing is known of it except that it was probably collected on one of Captain Cook's voyages. It is not even known which Pacific Island it lived on, though now it is found on none.
Endangered Animals

This is is already too many and growing.
Elephants (Proboscidea) Elephantidae African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)
Whales (Cetacea) Balaenidae Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) Balaenopteridae Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
Primates (Primates) Callitrichidae Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) Cebidae Hybrid Spider Monkey (Ateles belzebuth hybridus) Daubentoniidae Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) Hominidae Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)
Carnivores (Carnivora) Canidae Red Wolf (Canis rufus) Felidae Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) Anatolian Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) Florida Cougar (Puma concolor coryi) Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) Texas Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis albescens) Tiger (Panthera tigris)
Mustelidae Marine Otter (Lutra felina) Ursidae Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Lesser Panda (Ailurus fulgens) Even-Toed Hoofed Mammals (Artiodactyla)
Bovidae Cuvier's Gazelle (Gazella cuvieri) Western Giant Eland (Tragelaphus derbianus derbianus) Camelidae Wild Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) Cervidae Manipur Brow-Antlered Deer (Cervus eldii eldii) Odd-Toed Hoofed Mammals (Perissodactyla) Rhinocerotidae Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
Marsupials (Marsupialia) Burramyidae Broom's Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) Rodents (Rodentia) Chinchillidae Short-tailed Chinchilla (Chinchilla brevicaudata) Edentates (Edentata) Dasypodidae Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus)

Perhaps none of the above matter, however do we have right to decide the fate of so many creatures just to briefly enjoy a "false" standard of living?.
One of the contributory factors

For the record, since leaving University I have been a qualified Environmental Consultant (15 years), travelling the world and advising multi-national companies (Oil Companies, Investment Banks, Governments and The World Bank) on the management and mitigation of Environmental risk and the actual and potential impact that on both a regional and national scale. I have been to India, Japan, North America, Central Europe, South Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, carrying out such reviews. Today my work tends to focus on UK transactional work, but also still advise global companies on the management of Environmental Riaks Globally, using Capital Markets both here in London and New York. Remember pollution knows no pollitcal, social or religious boundaries.It affects both rich and poor alike. I'd thought I would put pen to paper just to give my own personal insight into my understanding of the current situation.

Current Energy Production

Crude oil prices have recently hit a 20 year high
Natural gas prices have followed suit
Energy field and production have remained static and are also showing signs of decline.
Countries are for the first time becoming "net" imports of fuel (UK figures in 2001.
2.5 million barrels per day produced and 1.7 million barrels per day used. The consumption figure has increased.
Natural gas for the same period demonstrates that we use 90% of our current production.
Proven reserve "write downs" to further complicate the assessment of field life(s). Shell's error in write downs may pave the way for others or at the very least question other companies write downs.
Limited and little spare capacity in the developed world What are the most recent causes of both increased energy use and the cost of the energy?
China and India are seeking develop using the western world development model
War in Iraq and the consequential effect on energy costs.
Terrorism both globally and also in the region that produces oil and gas that most of the world consume
Hedge funds are too long
Production in some cases struggles to meet with demands and.
No major significant oil fields have been discovered for the last 30 years.

T draw a "crude" conclusion from the above is too simple; however we need to recognize that:
Supply of hydrocarbon based fuels is flattening out and evidence proves that is maybe in decline
Demand for Natural gas is too high
Inventories provided by the major oil producers are either incorrect or too low (Shell's statement to that effect)
Current demand for Hydrocarbon based energy As stated increased demand has emanated from China in recent years and this demand has stunned the developed world.

From a relatively modest demand requirement in 1993 of some 3 million barrels per day, this figure has now jumped to 8.3 million barrels per day in 2003. This is partly due to increased industrialization and car ownership now reviling that of some European Countries. Russia is still a net exported but this is being used by both USA and China respectively. The USA daily demand has jumped from 7.2.million barrels per day in 1992 to greater than 9 million barrels per day in 2004. The USA rivals both Japan and China in terms of net importation of crude oil, although both still require more currently.
It has been estimated that global demands for crude oil has now exceed 82 million barrels per day. This energy demand is being bourne by fields that are between 30-80 years of age. Remember that no significant oil fields have been discovered for the last 30 years. Oil stocks have fallen by 205 million barrels since 1984.
The global demand verses production situation is that there appears, through research to be 2/2/5million barrels per day surplus. Given the rate of development, consumption and falling production from "antiquated fields", this is not much of an "energy cushion"? Most of the world's production fields have used greater than 50% of their anticipated yields and could be regarded as being in decline. The Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, UEA, Kuwait), for decades has provided the world with its energy demands and needs. Remember however that these fields are in decline. Arguably 100 years of reserves might sound a lot, but at current and increased rates of consumption may reduce this anticipated lifespan further yet. Add to that political instability and demands from emerging markets means that alternative may be required to "come online" much earlier than expected.

Globally are we at

Crude oil production nearing its peak in terms of the correlation on demand.
Natural gas is in decline
Nuclear is both costly to manage and regarded as " dangerous" to use
No credible "safe" alternatives are out there to meet with current energy demands yet along to meet future energy and development needs / requirements on a global basis.?.

Good production data has been proven recently to be unreliable, couple that with exploration costs increasing (unreliable capital expenditure data compounds the problem). and yields' falling from smaller and smaller fields suggests that we shall need to re-think both energy demands and use in a more sustainable and structured manner.
Other alternative sources of energy, chiefly Nuclear, Wind, Solar, Wave, Hydro-Electric are either un-proven, costly to implement, dangerous to use and currently cannot meet our worlds current daily energy requirements in the same manner as currently being demonstrated with the use of Hydrocarbon based fuels and Natural gas. How does this affect our Environment and what are the alternatives This clearly is a complex question with numerous alternative suggested options and scenarios. I do not profess to have the answer to but suggest that any alternative has a "lead time in implementation and acceptance. Are we blindly moving forward into economic and environmental meltdown due to energy scarcity? Are we in fact starving ourselves or squandering the time we have to put in place sustainable alternatives to a hydrocarbon based economy?.
Are we facing hard decision in the coming decades? 81.9 pence per litre will seen cheap by comparrison as we go forward. Forget the cheap and nasty air flights to destinations very few can point to on the map. Overlay that with political instablility in Europe and I hope you get the picture. As a species we are noted, by ourselves of course, as being innovative, creative and adaptable. That maybe so but ultimatley at what cost?. Who is judging us. As Karl Marx said, "society is only 3 meals away from revolution". It is a fragile as that.

What is biodiversity?

Biological diversity, or "biodiversity," refers to the variety of all life on earth, and the complex relationships among living things, and between living things and their environment. Biodiversity includes genetic variety, species diversity, and variability in communities, ecosystems and landscapes.

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity sustains the environments in which we live and on which our lives and those of every other living creature on Earth depend. Thanks to biodiversity, we are able to obtain such necessary goods as food, clothing, medicine, and fuel. Equally important are the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides, such as clean air and drinkable water.

What are the threats to biodiversity?

Conservation scientists have identified a number of universal threats to biodiversity: habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, pollution, overpopulation, overexploitation and consumption, and global climate change.

What can we do to conserve biodiversity?

Learn about your place in your community—where your water comes from, how your food gets to your table, where and how your clothing is made. By understanding how your daily actions and lifestyle choices can affect global biodiversity, you can take the first steps toward conserving it

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