haasts eagle

Recently Extinct Megafauna

Not ‘cavemen hunted these’ recently extinct. Recently extinct as in ‘16 to 20 human generations ago’.

Aurochs

What: The ancestor of domestic cattle

Where: 3 subspecies found throughout Northern Africa, Europe, and India 

When: 1627

Cause: Humans

Fun fact: They were mentioned in the Hebrew bible as re’em and mistranslated in the king James version as unicorns. There are numerous programs to revive the species 

Haast’s Eagle

What: One of the largest flighted bird to have ever lived

Where: New Zealand

When: 1400s

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: It’s been speculated that the ‘giant hawk’ Maui transforms into in Disney’s Moana is a reference to this eagle, which still has cultural significance for the Maori people of NZ, and is known as Pouakai in legends

Quagga

What: Subspecies of plains Zebra

Where: Africa 

When: 1883

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: It was the first extinct animal to have it’s DNA analyzed and there are efforts to revive the species. Though there are some triumphant sounding articles there, true quaggas are not back from the dead. We’re getting close now, and have 6 individuals now classed as ‘Rau quaggas’

Stellar’s Sea Cow

What: Massive sirenian mammal related to the modern dugong

Where: Bering Sea

When: 1768

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: It was declared extinct just 27 years after discovery by Europeans. 

Thylacine

What: Marsupial carnivore

Where: Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea 

When: 1936

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: There are purported sightings more than any other animal on this list. Many people believe this animal might still be out there 

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Moa 

What: Immense flightless bird

Where: New Zealand

When: By 1445

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: These gigantic birds were the prey of choice for the aforementioned Haast’s eagle. When humans destroyed the Moa population, the eagle was starved out.

Mexican Grizzly Bear

What: Exactly what it’s name suggests

Where: Northern Mexico to southern Arizona and New Mexico

When: 1964

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: Like the Tasmanian tiger this bear might still be out there. The species was declared extinct in the 60′s, however, a brown bear was shot in Sonora in 1976

Elephant bird

What: Gigantic flightless bird

Where: Madagascar

When: By the 1700s

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: They have the largest recorded egg size of any bird, with their eggs weighting up to 22 lbs.

Eastern Elk

What: Large subspecies of elk

Where: Eastern USA

When: The last confirmed eastern elk was shot in 1877

Cause: Bullet (humans)

Fun Fact: This elk could weigh up to about 1,000lbs and could have antlers 6 feet in length. Another subspecies, Merriam’s elk, went extinct around the same time but once lived in southwestern USA.

Koala Lemur

What: Giant lemurs

Where: Madagascar

When: By the 1500s

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: These were relatively human sized lemurs, growing 4-5 feet tall (the average male chimpanzee stands at just under 4 feet)

Japanese Wolves

What: The Hokkaido and Honshu wolves of Japan

Where: Japan

When: By the 1900s

Cause: Humans

Fun Fact: These wolves were purposefully exterminated with mass poisoning efforts by an American hired by the Japanese government. 

* Some of these animals aren’t technically megafauna; I’m being lose with the term. The thylacine is about 30 lbs shy of the marker, the Japanese wolves fall a little short, and Haast’s eagle falls well below. 

** I’ve left out some of the more recent and / or better known animals; I wanted to focus on animals I feel are slipping from general memory. 

*** There are actually several subspecies of Moa, though I’ve lumped them together as they all met the same fate around the same time.

Here is something cool about Disney’s Moana

Moana maybe the the only one from any movie or TV show to have a pretty accurate presentation and introduce the Poukai/Haast’s Eagle/Harpagornis (Aquila moorei) to a much wider audience.

For those who are not aware, the Poukai was the largest eagle to have ever lived, with a wingspan of between 2 and 3 metres, and weighing up to 13 kilograms. While the eagle was only native to New Zealand, the Poukai is still a pretty big deal in Polynesian culture. Scientists are able to recreate the plumage coloration of this remarkable bird (shown in the photo below) as the Maori describe this apex predator in their stories.

It has a strong resemblance to the giant eagle/hawk Maui transforms into. Granted a bit more stylized.