The last male northern white rhino – world’s largest terrestrial animal, leaving aside elephants – has died. Are you shocked? If the answer is yes, then this is because you have small knowledge of us and believe in fairytales stating that “back in the old days a human lived in harmony with nature”.
Some 50,000 years ago, the first people reached the Australian continent that looked like the Lost World of Professor Challenger. There were no flying pterosaurs there, but there were giant kangaroos, marsupial lions, huge flightless birds, that cannot now be seen in any zoo of the world, since throughout the history of thousands of years they were hunted to extinction by the same very people, who had to live in harmony with nature.
It is sometimes said that it is really climate that is to blame for all this – it was dramatically changing and animals were dying. Perhaps, climate variations made ancient megafauna impossible to live but as soon as the human set his foot on the new continent or island – the climate of that place became completely unbearable for the life of many species.
Some 16,000 years ago, people landed in America and inhabited throughout its continent. They met huge sloths there, big white rhinoceroses, and armadillos as big as rhinoceros. These giants, like many other representatives of the American megafauna, have completely disappeared from the face of Earth.
Archaeologists use to find gnawed bones of huge flightless birds of moa species, who were smoothly running to and fro for thousand consecutive years till the moment when Māori people landed the islands. Sometimes shell of big eggs laid by aepyornises – yet another type of huge birds that, as the story goes, were seen and heard a couple of hundred years ago – are found in Madagascar.
Sea cow, or rather Steller’s sea cow, was also big in size – up to 10 meters long. In 1741 it was seen by Europeans, and less than in 30 years they killed the last sea cow. There were few such animals, and perhaps they would die without humans, albeit at a later date.
However, some animals have the good fortune. Bisons, for instance. In 19th century population of these animals declined from many millions to few hundreds. Fortunately, currently, following the successful population restoration campaign, bisons are no in danger. Their close relatives in Europe, wisents, have moved even closer to the brink of extinction – now there is none of them in the wild. Animals raised in captivity were the only option that helped to restore the population.
The northern white rhinoceros has a close relative – the southern white rhinoceros. They are very similar, but southern white rhinoceros is slightly smaller and occupy another area. Fortunately, he is no longer threatened with extinction, and for a large amount of money you can even purchase rhino hunting license.
Yet one relative of white rhinoceros is living in Africa – black rhinoceros. There are Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses as well. All three of them are classified as “species on the brink of extinction”.
Simultaneously with Homo sapiens, other types of people also existed – Neanderthals, Denisovans, and “hobbits” from the island of Flores. But for some reason, they become extinct, but we survived.