The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Extinct in the Wild


During the month of June, I want to take readers on a journey of exploration into the topic of animals that have all but disappeared from the planet, but not entirely, and are otherwise known as extinct in the wild. It is a sad topic but an important one to explore.

What is the definition of extinct in the wild?

The ultimate authority for assigning animals into the category of extinct in the wild is The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Founded in 1948 as the world’s first global environmental organization, the IUCN is the largest professional global conservation network and a leading authority on the environment and sustainable development. The IUCN boasts more than 1,200 member organizations, including more than 200 government organizations and more than 900 non-government organizations. The IUCN has official observer status at the United Nations General Assembly and serves as a neutral forum for governments, NGOs, scientists, business and local communities to find conservation solutions and overcome development challenges.

Hawaiian Crow is considered to be extinct in the wild.  Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Hawaiian Crow is considered to be extinct in the wild. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A key objective of the IUCN is to share the knowledge gathered by its unique global community of 11,000 scientists. The IUCN databases, research tools and management are global standards in their fields. For example, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world.

Scimitar-horned oryx is considered extinct in the wild.  Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scimitar-horned oryx is considered extinct in the wild. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the IUCN, “A plant or animal species or subspecies is considered by the IUCN as Extinct in the Wild when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalized population (or populations) well outside the past range. A plant or animal species or subspecies is presumed Extinct in the Wild when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the plant or animal’s life cycle and life form.”

Translation: If scientists have searched high and low, in all seasons, and have used every known method of searching in every possible place, asked everyone that knows anything about the plant or animal and have done so over a very long time with no success, but the plant or animal still lives in a nursery, protected gardens, zoos and/or aquariums or some other protected place, then it is extinct in the wild, but not entirely extinct.


Of course we all understand that extinct means the plant or animal no longer lives. Full stop.

I will be taking some liberties as well and veering outside of the IUCN listings. There are some small animal populations that live in tiny wild habitats by comparison to their native range and require stringent management and advocacy to stave off ongoing threats.


2 comments on “Extinct in the Wild

  1. nevaknott
    July 6, 2014

    Maymie, this is such important information. You’ve made it accessible and discernible. Thanks!


    • Maymie Higgins
      July 6, 2014

      Thanks, Neva. In a perfect world, I would be spending my days in an academic setting teaching this sort of information. Blogging about it may actually reach a broader audience, however, so it’s flattering when someone in education tells me I make it accessible and discerning!


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This entry was posted on June 6, 2014 by in Extinct in the Wild, Wildlife.
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