We lost several species in 2016, and Extinction Countdown readers wanted to hear about them. But in addition to the latest news, readers also kept going deep into this column’s archives to get a better understanding of what’s going on with some of the world’s most popular, most endangered species.
Here are the 10 most-read “Extinction Countdown” articles of the year, along with my thoughts on each of them.
1. How the Western Black Rhino Went Extinct – Not a new article, but an important one. I wrote this back in 2013 in order to clarify a lot of misinformation being spread by other media and it’s probably my most-read article of all time. It still shocks people to realize that the western black rhino is gone—the extinction happened in the shadows, when no one was looking—and obviously they worry about what other rhinos will follow it. (See number 3 below for the probable answer to that one.)
2. Only 3 Addax Antelopes Left in the Wild? – The most-read of the articles that I published this year. This is another pending extinction that shouldn’t happen, and yet we’re suddenly watching it occur with little hope of reversing it.
3. Northern White Rhino Dies, Leaving Just 3 on the Planet – Over the past few years I have slowly tracked this species’ inevitable decline. I expect that I will continue to eulogize each lost member of the northern white rhino subspecies until they, like the western black rhino, are all but a memory.
4. The Rabbs' Tree Frog Just Went Extinct – A rare public extinction. We knew this was going to happen, since the entire species was represented by a single, solitary, lonely frog, but perhaps that made his passing earlier this year even more touching and emotional.
5. The Italian Alps Hold a Secret: A New Species of Viper – A neat story from this past July. I’m glad that it resonated with people. It sometimes feels like it’s hard to get people to care about the “ugly” species such as reptiles. This showed that people really do sit up and take notice for all manner of species.
6. Snails Are Going Extinct: Here's Why That Matters – I’ll echo the sentiment from above here. I wrote this article because I thought that it was important. I never expected it to get many readers. I am happy to have been proven wrong.
7. First Bird Extinction in the Galapagos Islands Confirmed – More bad news from earlier this year. This December’s article on the IUCN’s announcement of 13 bird extinctions (including this one) also attracted a lot of readers, with good reason.
8. When Did the Barbary Lion Really Go Extinct? – Another historical piece (written in 2013) that remains relevant and interesting to people today especially now that the remaining African lion species have become so much at risk.
9. The 5 Most Endangered Canine Species – A perennial. Little has changed for these species since I first wrote this in 2013, I’m sorry to say.
10. The 6 Most Endangered Feline Species – Another perennial. Another article that remains relevant three years after I wrote it. That makes it seem like we’re making little progress in protecting the world’s threatened species, and that’s kind of true, but there are always success in the midst. I guess the fact that we haven’t lost any of these imperiled felines yet counts as one of those successes.
What will 2017 hold? Stay tuned for that. One of my first articles for January will contain some predictions for the year to come.
Until then, thank you all for reading—and for caring.