This week we had a very sad anniversary: Exactly one hundred years ago, on September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon in the world, named Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo.
Scientists estimate that there were three to five billion passenger pigeons in North America when the Europeans first arrived. It was the most abundant bird on the continent. More than a quarter of all birds were passenger pigeons.
Relentless hunting by humans was the cause for their demise. Pigeons served as cheap food for slaves and the poor. After a slow decline through the beginning of the 19th century, the collapse became catastrophic between 1870 and 1890. The populations never recovered, and the last pigeon died in 1914.
Pretty much nobody alive today has ever seen this bird.
We are doing the same today to elephants. There are only about 600,000 African elephants and 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants alive today…
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