Extinction

This encore Reader's Corner interview first aired in September, 2018.

A handful of times in our planet’s history, the vast majority of plant and animal life has gone extinct, leaving a desolate and alien earth, devoid of trees, fish, and familiar signs of life. In the more recent past, scientists have pointed to asteroids to explain some of these extinction events. But today, that view is being questioned. More evidence is pointing towards terrestrial causes of our past extinctions, notably climate and ocean change, spurred by the influx of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

  

In our complex and data driven world, scientists are facing a major challenge to understand and document plant and animal species that may be in the process of disappearing. Climate change, habitat fragmentation, pollution and population growth are among the threats that are pushing some species toward extinction.

Zoo Boise

Teenagers volunteering at Zoo Boise are helping to try and save one of the world’s most endangered mammals.

The teens are using an information booth to raise money for the Saola - a forest mammal that lives in Vietnam. The animal rocked the scientific world when, in 1992, scientists first discovered what turned out to be not just a brand new species, but a whole new genus.

These antelope-type creatures have two long curing horns on their heads and white spots on their faces. They are remarkably shy and gentle, and have never been seen alive in the wild by scientists.

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve been making changes to it – oftentimes with little or no comprehension about the far-reaching consequences of our actions. But in her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert opens our eyes to the powerful and possibly catastrophic mass extinction unfolding right in front of us. 

Jerry McFarland / Flickr

Federal authorities have released their final recovery plan for Snake River sockeye salmon, a species that teetered on the brink of extinction in the early 1990s.

Authorities say the plan released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will create a self-sustaining population of sockeye over the next 50 to 100 years.

The run was listed as endangered in 1991, kicking off a hatchery program that at first had only a handful of returning fish to propagate the species.