Extinct animals on film

One of several little-known facts revealed in PBS’s Nature’s two-part program The Story of Cats (premiered Nov. 2) is that every cat species on Earth — some 37 in all — can trace its genetic origin at least in part to the Southeast Asian clouded leopard.

That’s worth noting, because as a recent compilation video distributed by the Asian conservation group COPAL points out, the Formosan clouded leopard was just one of several species to become extinct in the 21st century. 

Climate change, as forewarned in Leo DiCaprio’s National Geographic film Before the Flood, is just one factor. Connections are often drawn between climate change and habitat loss, which is the real cause driving most extinctions today.

Habitat loss is a critical problem, especially as the world's population continues to expand and grow. Other animals to have vanished since the year 2000 include the Japanese river otter, the Baiji dolphin, the Pyrenean ibex, the Pinta Island tortoise and the Bermuda saw-whet owl, and that's just in the past two decades.

Dodo, Julian Pender/NHM.

What's done is done, of course. The dodo famously died out some 300 years ago, in one of the first known man-made extinctions, and has never been since, except in artists' renderings. 

Avian paleontologist and artist Julian Pender, an expert on the dodo with the Natural HIstory Museum in London, explains his process behind painting a portrait of the dodo in this video:

The dodo reminds us that what we take for granted today can be so easily forgotten tomorrow.

Food for thought — and posterity.