Is Extinction Forever?

October 8, 2013

Steve Zack, WCS's Coordinator of Bird Conservation, explains the complexities associated with recreating extinct species.

John James Audubon "was struck with amazement" at the darkened skies caused by the birds. The man who would become famous as an artist of nature was, not surprisingly, himself a naturalist. Yet his efforts to document the flock's numbers were futile.

"The birds poured in in countless multitudes," Audubon would write. "The air was literally filled with pigeons; the light of noonday was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose."

Rarely has abundant poop led to serenity, but in 1813 Audubon was witnessing the spectacle of what was then the most abundant bird on earth: the passenger pigeon. Billions moved across our boundless eastern deciduous forests, feeding on the ample store, or "mast," of nuts from acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, and the like.

By the end of that century, the passenger pigeon was all but extinct. It is probably the most dramatic extinction story ever witnessed. Yet now there is interest and even the possibility of bringing the most famously extinct bird back.

Read the full blog on the Huffington Post >>
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