“Wake-up call”: 21 animal and plant species declared extinct, removed from Endangered Species Act

It’s extremely important to protect endangered species by any means necessary, but sadly protections come too late for some species and they are declared extinct, forever gone from our world.

Yesterday, 21 new plant and animal species were officially declared extinct as they were removed from the Endangered Species Act — a move experts are calling a “wake-up call” to the importance of saving at-risk species.

According to a press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is delisting 21 species from the Endangered Species Act, declared extinct based on the best available science.

The list of species includes one mammal (the the Mariana fruit bat), 10 species of birds (including the Bachman’s warbler and the bridled white-eye), 2 species of fish and 8 types of mussels. Eight of the species were native to Hawaii.

The Bachman’s warbler, one of the delisted species, seen here in 1958 (Wikimedia Commons/Jerry A. Payne, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org)

Most of these species were added to the ESA back in the 1970s and 80s when they were in low numbers, and have not had any confirmed sightings in decades, which led to a 2021 proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service that they be delisted.

Even though many of these species were presumed to be extinct, their delisting is still a sobering reminder of how fragile our ecosystem can be, and that early action is necessary to prevent species from going extinct.

“Federal protection came too late to reverse these species’ decline, and it’s a wake-up call on the importance of conserving imperiled species before it’s too late,” Williams said in the press release. “As we commemorate 50 years of the Endangered Species Act this year, we are reminded of the Act’s purpose to be a safety net that stops the journey toward extinction. The ultimate goal is to recover these species, so they no longer need the Act’s protection.”

Specimen of the Kauai ʻakialoa, one of the delisted species, seen at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu (Wikimedia Commons)

Two of the species originally proposed for delisting will remain under ESA protections: the Hawaiian perennial herb Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis, due to surveys finding potentially suitable habitats for the species, and the ivory-billed woodpecker, which FWS says needs further analysis and review.

Occasionally, species once declared extinct are discovered to still be alive in the wild. Just last month, the houting, a species of European whitefish declared extinct in 2008, was found to be genetically indistinguishable from the Coregonus lavaretus, and therefore not extinct.

And last year, a species of tortoise thought to be extinct for a century was discovered alive in the wild. So there is a sliver of hope that some of these species might be found somewhere someday — but for now, their delisting is a reminder of the species disappearing from our planet and the work we need to do to save them.

It’s heartbreaking that all these species have gone extinct. We need to do everything we can to protect the many critically endangered species from extinction.

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