I am still living my biblical ‘three score years and ten’ as they say. Not very interesting or startling you might think.

But what is startling is the number of creatures that have become extinct during my 60+ years, which varies depending on where you source the information, but it’s no small number. The cause of these losses is pretty much all down to us, the supposed top of the food chain, the superior species. Homo sapiens - us - are supposedly the dominant species on the planet, yet we have allowed some of our fellow creatures to die out. And maybe now just realising how long that list is, and asking ourselves, how did we let this happen?

Creatures that might seem insignificant

Did we realise how important it was when the last Golden Toad vanished in 2004 for instance (well at least no sightings since then)? No, probably never even gave it a thought. But factors in this seemingly insignificant toad’s presumed extinction include restricted range, global warming, disease and airborne pollution, and this applies to nearly all of these missing creatures.

Credits: Unsplash; Author: zdenek-machacek;

Here’s a curious one. The Quagga was native to South Africa and went extinct in the late 19th century. For a long time, the quagga was thought to be its own species before it was discovered that it was closely related to the Plains Zebra and was, in fact, a subspecies of the zebra. Quaggas quite literally looked like a mashup between two animals - a zebra in the front thanks to its stripes, and a horse in the rear. Now scientists are trying to resurrect the quagga. We shouldn’t have to meddle with their survival, but some success has been achieved via reverse engineering, selectively breeding zebras (who carry quagga genes). What a lot of trouble caused because we touched off their extinction. It was caused by us humans, who hunted them to death. Plain and simple.

A shocking new report paints a grim picture of the state of the planet. The world is facing ‘double’ emergencies, the WWF suggests, as the climate crisis deepens, animal populations are declining at frighteningly high levels.

Credits: Unsplash; Author: redcharlie;

Animals across the planet, from deep below the ocean's surface to those hiding in the trees of the Amazon, are dying off. The WWF studied more than 5,200 species for its Living Planet Report and found that out of the nearly 32,000 populations analysed, there was an average decline of 69% since 1970. Up to 2.5% of mammals, fish, reptiles, birds and amphibians have already gone extinct, the report says.

Scientists named a new species of whale last year, but now, they're already on the edge of extinction.

Mass extinction - us next?

Population decline, also known as depopulation, is a reduction in a human population size. Throughout history, Earth's total human population has continued to grow; however, current projections suggest that this long-term trend of steady population growth may be coming to an end, with the average population numbers getting worse. Four years ago, the Living Planet report found a 60% average decline, and in 2020, the average hit 68% – a situation that was called an ‘SOS for nature.’

Credits: Unsplash; Author: chris-stenger;

After a short two years, authors of the report say the continued decline is a ‘code red for the planet (and humanity)’ as some scientists warn that Earth is heading toward another mass extinction, mostly due to climate change.

Sobering thought put forward by J Richard Gott (a professor of astrophysical sciences), that humanity has a 95% probability of being extinct in 7,800,000 years, in his formulation of the controversial Doomsday argument, which argues that we have probably already lived through half the duration of human history.

Yes, I know it’s too far ahead for us to even comprehend – but it will definitely impact all our yet-to-be-born families.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan