Has an animal ever been intentionally made extinct?

I was listening to the radio today and they were talking about all the wonderful pestilence that mosquitoes spread around. West Nile virus and all. I recall that one of the big accomplishments during the building of the Panama Canal was essentially killing all the mosquitoes in the area, stopping the yellow fever that had previously been a serious problem. To the question…

Has this ever been done on a wider scale? To the level of actually making an animal extinct as an end in itself, rather than as an unfortunate side effect?

Um, I was not aware that they were able to “kill all” of the mosquitos in Panama. I thought they were only able to bring their breeding under a certain amount of control by eliminating obvious sources of standing water, but as for “killing all” of them… I doubt that.


Otherwise, are you counting single-cell organisms? Because…


Definitely. The Thylacine was (Tasmanian Tiger) was deliberately wiped out in the 19th Century in Australia. Thylacine was a large (roughly the size of a large dog) carnivorous marsupial.

There were bounties and eradication programs. The last one died in a zoo in Tasmania in the early 20th Century (I think). I’ll try to find a cite

Here’s a cite from the Australian Museum. It includes photos and a short discussion.


They came darn close with the bison hunts of the 1870’s.

The dodo was made extinct. So was the passenger pigeon. Those acts were as intentional as human acts get, given the brazen disregard we showed those animals.

Killing off all mosquitoes…Wildest Bill, is that you? :slight_smile:

Kidding aside though, I’ll add that like the Dodo, the Great Auk was also made extinct from overhunting because it was flightless.

The Stellar’s Sea Cow was hunted to extinction about 200 years ago, along with the spectacled cormorant . The sea cow only lasted 27 years once humans discovered it until it was wiped out for good.

Those examples of species that were killed through hunting for its own sake are all well and good, but read the OP closely:

To the level of actually making an animal extinct as an end in itself, rather than as an unfortunate side effect?

So those don’t qualify.

Rockford and mmmiiikkkeee I think the OP was looking for examples of where the animals were deliberatley made extinct as an end in itself rather than just through sheer stupidity.

nitpicking a nitpick :eek:

Both the USA and Russia retain laboratory stocks of the smallpox virus

The beaver, brown bear and wolf were hunted to extinctionin the UK . The latter two at least would be regarded as deliberate actions. However I don’t know whether they were distinct subspecies to the surviving populations elsewhere in Europe.

There’s not necessarily much of a distinction between those two things though. In some cases, like the sea cow someone mentioned, I would say that they did deliberately cause the extinction. Those people had to have known that that species was disappearing, but they continued to systematically kill them off. They just didn’t have the capacity to understand what the implications of making a species extinct are.

Add the Great Auk to the list.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that citing the smallpox virus is definitely pushing the definition of “animal”. Just my opinion.

Oh, and isn’t there some evidence (or is it only speculation) that prehistoric humans deliberately extinguished some of their (our!) hominid competitors?

I think the OP was asking for examples of species driven to extinction simply for the purpose of getting rid of them, and not for any other reason. This would not include species that were hunted to extinction, because the motive there was for meat or fur or what have you.

I don’t think there have been any.

They’ve currently managed to eradicate the New World screwworm fly from pretty much all of North and Central America. And they’re working on doing the same in the Caribbean. After that, the next step is South America, which will be quite a chore, since it’s native to all but the southern parts of that continent. I don’t see anyone objecting to this program.

However, even after the eradication program is complete, the insect won’t be extinct as they can keep breeding stock frozen but revivable.

The Great Auk was deliberately made extinct. There were expeditions sent to “collect” the last survivors, so I guess it counts.

IIRC, the Bisons were systematically hunted down so the Native Americans couldn’t expand out from their preserves. Wolves were systemetically hunted by ranchers in the US Midwest to stop them eating the livestocks.