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Extinct in the wild

Conservation status
Bufo periglenes, the Golden Toad, was last recorded on May 15, 1989
Lower Risk

Other categories

Related topics

IUCN Red List category abbreviations (version 3.1, 2001)
Comparison of Red list classes above
and NatureServe status below
NatureServe category abbreviations
The ʻalalā has been extinct in the wild since 2002

A species that is extinct in the wild (EW) is one that has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as known only by living members kept in captivity or as a naturalized population outside its historic range due to massive habitat loss.[1]

The Guam kingfisher has been extinct in the wild since 1986


Examples of species and subspecies that are extinct in the wild include:

The Pinta Island tortoise (Geochelone nigra abingdoni) had only one living individual, named Lonesome George, until his death in June 2012.[4] The tortoise was believed to be extinct in the mid-20th century, until Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi spotted Lonesome George on the Galapagos island of Pinta on 1 December 1971. Since then, Lonesome George has been a powerful symbol for conservation efforts in general and for the Galapagos Islands in particular.[5] With his death on 24 June 2012, the subspecies is again believed to be extinct.[6] With the discovery of 17 hybrid Pinta tortoises located at nearby Wolf Volcano a plan has been made to attempt to breed the subspecies back into a pure state.[7]

Not all species that are extinct in the wild are rare. For example, Ameca splendens, though extinct in the wild,[8] was a popular fish among aquarists for some time, but hobbyist stocks have declined quite a lot more recently, placing its survival in jeopardy.[9] However, the ultimate purpose of preserving biodiversity is to maintain ecological function. When a species exists only in captivity, it is ecologically extinct.


Reintroduction is the deliberate release of species into the wild, from captivity or relocated from other areas where the species survives. This may be an option for certain species that are endangered or extinct in the wild. However, it may be difficult to reintroduce EW species into the wild, even if their natural habitats were restored, because survival techniques, which are often passed from parents to offspring during parenting, may be lost. While conservation efforts may preserve some of the genetics of a species, the species may never fully recover due to the loss of the natural memetics of the species.

An example of a successful reintroduction of an EW species is Przewalski's horse, which as of 2018 is considered to be an Endangered species, following reintroduction started in the 1990s.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1" (PDF). IUCN. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  2. ^ Donaldson, J.S. (2010). "Encephalartos brevifoliolatus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2010: e.T41882A10566751. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-3.RLTS.T41882A10566751.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  3. ^ "South China Tiger". World Wide Fund for Nature.
  4. ^ Gardner, Simon (6 February 2001). "Lonesome George faces own Galapagos tortoise curse". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
  5. ^ Nicholls, H. (2006). Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon. London, England: Macmillan Science. ISBN 1-4039-4576-4.
  6. ^ "Last Pinta giant tortoise Lonesome George dies". BBC News. 24 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Not so Lonesome (George) after all: Scientists believe they can resurrect extinct species of famous tortoise by cross-breeding". The Daily Mail. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  8. ^ Contreras-Balderas, S.; Almada-Villela, P. (1996). "Ameca splendens". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 1996: e.T1117A3259262. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T1117A3259262.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  9. ^ Kelley, J.L.; Magurran, A.E. & Macías García, C. (2006): Captive breeding promotes aggression in an endangered Mexican fish. Biological Conservation 133(2): 169–177. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2006.06.002 (HTML abstract)
  10. ^ "An extraordinary return from the brink of extinction for worlds last wild horse". 19 December 2005. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2018.

External links