Animals Believed to Be Extinct Were Found All Over the World This Year

Animals Thought to Be Extinct Rediscovered 2023

The past year brought a glimmer of positive conservation news as several animal species thought to be extinct were rediscovered.

Species have gone extinct at a much higher rate than is expected with evolution, and the blame has largely been placed on humans and their detrimental impact on certain species’ environments. Experts believe that the modern extinction rate is as much as 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But rediscovering a species previously thought to be extinct provides a spark of hope.

The animals found across the globe included such species as reptiles, fish and mammals.

In October, an extinct colony of little penguins was reestablished after 30 years when a chick hatched for the first time since 1993. A breeding pair finally returned to the Eagles Claw Nature Reserve, located in Eden, Australia. Researchers thought that predators such as foxes had hunted the species to extinction.

Typically, a species is declared extinct if it hasn’t been sighted for more than 50 years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) followed the guidelines for decades, but the organization refined them in the 1990s so that a species can be listed as extinct if there is “no reasonable doubt that the last individual member has died,” according to Discover magazine.

Newsweek reached out to the IUCN by email for comment.

Another species also was found to be living in Australia this year after it was previously thought to have permanently vanished: a rare lizard called the Lyon’s grassland striped skink.

The skink hadn’t been seen for 42 years, and researchers feared it was extinct. However, the skink reappeared in April in northeastern Queensland after researchers embarked on a mission to identify highly threatened reptiles in the area.

A scent detection dog was used in South Africa to find the De Winton’s golden mole, an elusive mammal that lives almost entirely underground and doesn’t leave behind tunnels as other species of moles do.

“Though many people doubted that De Winton’s golden mole was still out there, I had good faith that the species had not yet gone extinct,” Cobus Theron, a senior conservation manager at Endangered Wildlife Trust and a member of the search team, said in a press release. “I was convinced it would just take the right detection method, the proper timing and a team passionate about finding it.”

He continued: “I think it’s just fantastic that in 2023 we can still rediscover species. All of our stories around conservation are doom and gloom. Here we have an opportunity to say that actually there are opportunities to make change.”

De Winton’s golden mole, a blind mole that lives underground, was recently discovered by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa after not being seen since 1936. Several animal species were rediscovered this year after researchers feared they were extinct.

Most of the animals thought to be extinct were difficult to find. For example, Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna—named after British naturalist, writer and historian David Attenborough—was discovered in New Guinea solely through sightings on trail cameras. Before the video sightings in November, the echidna hadn’t been seen for 60 years.

Once rediscovered, some animals still face the threat of endangerment, but that wasn’t the case for a species of fish in the North Sea. Scientists discovered an abundance of houting, a whitefish species, thriving throughout the sea after it was officially declared extinct in 2008.

The fish wasn’t evasive or endangered—but its DNA was so genetically similar to the European whitefish that they were considered the same species.

Despite the rediscovery news, extinction is still a massive threat to thousands of species. The IUCN lists more than 40,000 species as threatened, with more than 9,000 species considered critically endangered.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Animals Believed to Be Extinct Were Found All Over the World This Year

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