Who’s losing the Sixth Extinction?

Animals and plants are going extinct so fast, some scientists have proposed calling our time period the Sixth Extinction. But who loses the most during this?

Click the picture to see it interactive!
Click the picture to see it interactive!

The IUCN red list has declared 77 mammal species extinct, the largest proportion of which have been rodents. Deer, diprotodont marsupials (an order that includes animals like kangaroos and koalas) and shrews have also been hit hard.

I should note that the IUCN list isn’t a comprehensive list, so some species may be missing. It also doesn’t list subspecies, so just by looking at it you may never know that Mexico once had grizzly bears or that Europe once had lions, for example. There are also many species that are presumed extinct but may not be – it’s just been so long since anyone’s seen one that we’re not sure if they exist or not. So there’s a lot of nuances that are missing from this casual overview.

But it can illustrate a big truth. And that’s that it’s often not the big, charismatic animals that suffer the most during extinctions. It’s true that tigers are in trouble but that’s just one species. Nearly 40 different rodents species have disappeared from the IUCN’s lists.

And that’s just mammals, which only make up 9 per cent of the extinct animals. And that’s just one kingdom – it doesn’t even count plants, fungi or other types of life.

That’s the subtle truth about the current extinction event. Most of it happens far from the public’s eye. And for every panda or rhino we can save, dozens, maybe hundreds, of less photogenic species fall away.


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