A species becomes extinct when its death rate is continually greater than its birthrate.

Activities and Projects

Suddenly, the word extinction has not one, but several possible definitions depending upon the species being studied or discussed and the reason for its decline or extermination. As teachers will very quickly appreciate, this opens up a wide-ranging subject for class or project work of all kinds, suitable for any level of age or academic ability.

There are many absorbing activities linked with the study of extinction ranging from simple model making and artwork to detailed studies of ecosytems, or deductions concerning climatic changes which brought the Age of Reptiles to a comparatively abrupt end.

Case Histories
An interesting study for both individuals and groups is the compilation of typical case histories showing why plants and animals are endangered or why they have become extinct.

These case histories could include any of the following:

Dodo (extinct)
The flightless pigeon of Mauritius.

Tiger  (critically endangered - endangered)
Fifty years ago there were more than 100,000 tigers - now there are approximately 3,200 left and the chances of survival are not good. 

Passenger pigeon (extinct) A classic example of direct extermination. Countless millions of these birds were killed within 30 years in North America, the last one died in 1914.

Quagga (extinct)
A variety of zebra with stripes at the front of its body.  It lived in large numbers in South Africa until Boer settlers began hunting them.  They were finally wiped out in 1878.

Rhinoceros  (near threatened - critically endangered)
Any of the five species will make an interesting study. In evolutionary decline - being accelerated by poachers who sell horn (which is attributed with magic powers).

Great whales  (least concern - endangered)
Humans' predation on the whales from the earliest times to the present day provides scope for a very detailed and well documented study.

Hawaiian goose (Ne-ne)   (vulnerable)
Success story. Down to last thirty survivors before Wildfowl Trust commenced rescue programme. Now increasing in numbers and released again in Hawaii. 

Remember that Humans too can become extinct, and there are already too many records of tribal extinction around the world.

According to Survival International 150 million tribal people live in over 60 countries around the world.  Although their land rights are protected under international law, on a local level this is not the case.  Many tribes are in danger of being wiped out by diseases brought in by outsidersand sometimes suffer violence at their hands, particularly if the tribes do not have contact with the outside world. No one knows for sure how many tribes this includes, but the the best estimate is probably more than 100, mostly in Amazonia and New Guinea. Few remain particularly in the rainforests, where they are vulnerable to the exploits of miners and logging companies.  When tribes are destroyed, so is their language, culture and knowledge which has built up over thousands of years.

Read More: What can we do?

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