Defying the Odds: 3 Species That Came Back From Extinction

posted: 12/15/15
by: Danny Clemens

The Internet is abuzz after scientists announced the intention to revive the lost Pinta Island tortoise, a species whose last remaining member, Lonesome George, died off in 2012. If all goes to plan, a new population of Pinta Island tortoises could be introduced into the wild in as little as a decade, adding a triumphant new chapter to a story once considered closed.

Lonesome George's isn't the only story with a happy ending, however. Our planet is full of hidden, undiscovered places that house animals once thought long gone. Meet three unusual species that were considered extinct in the wild until a lucky twist of fate gave them a second chance.

Philippine forest turtle
Pierre Fidenci/Wikimedia Commons


First discovered in 1920, the critically endangered Philippine forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) disappeared for much of the twentieth century; there were no reported sightings of the freshwater amphibian in the wild between 1920 and 2001.

After the turn of the century, however, herpetologists discovered a small S. leytensis population in the Philippine province of Palawan.

Despite being protected under the CITES convention, the species is a frequent target of wildlife trafficking. Human-induced habitat destruction also continue to threaten the remaining wild population.

"If no immediate action is taken, then the Philippine forest turtle could well become extinct in the very near future," the Philippine Forest Turtle Project writes on its website.

Siamese crocodile
SuperJew/Wikimedia Commons


Formerly found across southeastern Asia, the Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) was believed to be extinct in 99% of its natural range by the end of the twentieth century. Threatened by extensive human development and wildlife trafficking, conservationists considered the species to be effectively extinct in the wild.

In 2000, however, conservationists from Fauna and Flora International discovered a small population in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains. Since then, 30 additional small populations throughout the region have been located, comprising a total wild population of less than 400 animals.

The species continues to be threatened by the proliferation of hydroelectric dams, which have become increasingly common throughout its natural range. Conservationists have launched breeding programs and habitat protection initiatives to safeguard the remaining Siamese crocodiles.

Short-necked oil beetle
Daryona/Wikimedia Commons


Like its formerly 'extinct' friends, the short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) now exists only in small pockets in the United Kingdom. Farming ravaged the species through the 1940s, and the beetle was presumed extinct. After 60 years out of the spotlight, the beetle reappeared in 2007, when scientists unexpectedly discovered a handful of sites that support small populations.

According to the BBC, one of the areas where the beetle was discovered is now being managed to support the critically endangered insect.


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