Earth Beat, 7 October 2011. Saying goodbye… to a home, to an island, to a species. Stories about taking your leave under tough conditions.
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We hear about species on the brink of extinction all the time, but for many it’s already too late, like the Yangtze River dolphin (or baiji).
It achieved goddess status in China, but that wasn’t enough to ensure its survival.
Recently extinct species
Steller's Sea Cow - (pictured above - Flickr/peacay) a giant marine mammal, distantly related to dugongs and manatees, which was discovered around two remote Russian islands in 1743 and had been hunted to extinction by 1768.
The giant rice rats of the Caribbean - rats the size of small cats, which lived on islands such as St Lucia and Martinique until the late 19th century, and which were the only native land mammals in the eastern Caribbean; they were probably wiped out by mongooses that were introduced to control pests on the sugar cane plantations.
Aurochs - the ancestor of domestic cattle, this was a fearsome bison-sized animal that survived in Poland until the 17th century, before being hunted to extinction.
Little Swan Island Hutia - a large guinea-pig-like rodent found on a single tiny island between Jamaica and Honduras. One animal was exhibited before King Edward VII in the early 20th century, but in the 1950s a box of cats was released on the island and killed off the entire species.
Stephens Island Wren - a tiny flightless wren found on a small island off New Zealand, which was allegedly discovered - and wiped out - by the lighthouse keeper's cat in the late 19th century.
Marquesas Swamphen - a large purple relative of coots and moorhens, which is only known for certain from bones found in caves, but which may have been painted in 1902 by Paul Gauguin; nothing else is known about it.
Alaotra Grebe - last seen in 1985 and declared extinct in 2010. A small waterbird found on Madagascar's Lake Alaotra, which has experienced huge amounts of habitat destruction and invasive predatory species.
(Text: Sam Turvey)
The rodents are causing so much damage to grass on Macquarie Island they’re changing the landscape of the place, and threatening the habitat for other animals. So hunters have been hired to kill every single one.
New Scientist - Rampant rabbits trash World Heritage island
A house for most of us is a place of warmth and security, but for artist Kane Cunningham it’s a lesson in saying goodbye. He bought a bungalow - pictured above - for a song on the edge of a cliff overlooking the North Sea.
It’s so far excelled itself by surviving far longer than anyone expected, but how long has he got before the ground gives - and why is he doing it anyway? (more photos below)
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about dumpster-diving, waste and the expiry dates on food.
And here in Amsterdam, an artist collective recently put on a series of events where people brought out-of-date food to their gallery, and well-known chefs devised a menu, the participants cooked it and ate it.
Bluffton in Texas has had a chequered past. It was built as a small trading post on the Colorado River in 1852, but was burned down 30 years later by cowboys.
A second Bluffton was built a few hundred metres away, but this town was flooded in 1937, when the river was dammed to create Lake Buchanan. The town and its inhabitants were relocated to a third site, and Bluffton’s former location was once again forgotten.
Until now. Because thanks to the drought that’s been affecting Texas since the start of the summer, water levels in the lake have dropped so low, that the old Bluffton has reappeared. Tim Mohan - from Vanishing Texas River Cruises - is a guide to the area (more photos below).
More about Bluffton from Earth Beat: Texas drought reveals ghost town of old Bluffton.