Home > Environment, Science > Back from the dead: One third of ‘extinct’ animals turn up again

Back from the dead: One third of ‘extinct’ animals turn up again

By David Derbyshire Environment Editor
Last updated at 9:10 AM on 29th September 2010

An okapiAn okapi: Tracks were seen by researchers five years ago for the first time since 1959

Conservationists are overestimating the number of species that have been driven to extinction, scientists have said.

A study has found that a third of all mammal species declared extinct in the past few centuries have turned up alive and well.

Some of the more reclusive creatures managed to hide from sight for 80 years only to reappear within four years of being officially named extinct in the wild.

The shy okapi – which resembles a cross between a zebra and a giraffe – was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1901.

After increasingly rarer sightings, it vanished from the wildlife radar for decades from 1959, prompting fears that it had died out.

But five years ago researchers working for the WWF found okapi tracks in the wild.

Other mammals ‘back from the dead’ include the rat-like Cuban solenodon, the Christmas Island shrew, the Vanikoro Flying Fox of the Solomon Islands, the Australian central rock rat and the Talaud Flying Fox of Indonesia.

The revelations come as the world’s leading conservationists prepare for a major United Nations summit on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, next month.

Many scientists believe the world is going through a new ‘mass extinction’ fuelled by mankind – and that more species are disappearing now than at any time since the dinosaurs vanished 65million years ago.



  • The Australian central rock rat (pictured)
  • The rat-like Cuban solenodon
  • The Christmas Island shrew
  • The Vanikoro Flying Fox of the Solomon Islands
  • The Talaud Flying Fox of Indonesia

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 22 per cent of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction. In Britain, more than two plant and animal species are being wiped out each year.

But while the report does not play down the threat from deforestation, overfishing or habitat destruction, it raises questions about the way species are classified as extinct.

Dr Diana Fisher, of the University of Queensland, Australia, compiled a list of all mammals declared extinct since the 16th century or which were flagged up as missing in scientific papers.

‘We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500,’ she wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

‘In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered.

More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered.’

Mammals that suffered from loss of habitat were the most likely to have been declared extinct and then rediscovered, she said.

Species spread out over larger areas were also more likely to be wrongly classified as extinct.

The mistakes cannot be blamed on primitive technology or old fashioned scientific methods.

‘Mammals missing in the 20th century were nearly three times as likely to be rediscovered as those that disappeared in the 19th century,’ Dr Fisher added.

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For the most part, what pass for “scientists” today do 95% of their “research” on a computer and only rarely get out in the world to see what’s actually going on. “Hottest Year on Record” for 2009 is one example. When you reduce the temperature measurement stations from 20,000 to under 2,000–and only KEEP those near heat islands like large cities where they’re easiest to reach in the “researchers'” BMWs, it’s no surprise that you get marginally higher temp readings than you may have before. When environmental “scientists” have a vested interest in “crises” because they’re what drive research grants, how interesting that we’re warned of crisis after crisis when none, in fact, exist. I’ll believe these “climate scientists” when they (1) admit that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax or (2) admit that we’ve been shipping SUVs and running them day and night on Mars and THAT accounts for their 30-year shrinking ice caps.

– Pappadave, Oklahoma City, USA, 02/10/2010 04:21

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science is an inexact art…environmental science is also inexact…anyone with a PhD can postulate a theory, test it and get results that support the theorem… what i find most interesting is that many people trust scientists, but have we done many studies to find how often scientific ideas and data analysis are inaccurate??? i think we would find that many commonly-agreed-upon, science-based beliefs are no more than guesswork…as a species we have moved so far away from our roots in such a short time that it wouldn’t surprise me to see a massive population shift…humans will, however, survive at some capacity until the day a space-borne calamity intervenes… 🙂

– daveugber, kansas – USA, 02/10/2010 02:01

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Hey Kurtiss, Concord

90%+ of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. They all went extinct long before man came along. “It’s nature, s*#t happens”.

– RobertT, Louisville,KY, 02/10/2010 01:09

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@Jack Kinch(1uncle)

The old population bomb farce. Overpopulation is a myth. If all 6.5 billion people on Earth were given 1/3 of an acre, it would fill up just over 1/2 of Australia. If those 6.5 billion people were given 3 sq. feet of space we would only fill up Rhode island. They want the number of us lowly serfs reduced to a manageable population neatly contained within walls while the elites spreading all these lies have their massive tracks of land to use for themselves.

– RCT, Free Earth, 02/10/2010 01:04

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By the time mankind is able to realize the damage being done by “”production”while greedily trying to use every possible inch. natures wetlands Rain forest,mountains etc for they’re own self gratification. Who knows how many things will be extinct or have never had a glimmer of a chance to be enjoyed or discovered.It is a Shame.

– Tanny Shonk, Clinton twsp.Michigan,USA, 01/10/2010 23:52

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Are we saying that these Conservationists and the collected “brain trust” that publish journel after journel on endangered species don’t really know what’s going on on every inch of this planet? Because they sure do act like they know! I bet there is some PHD clubbing a DoDo Bird just to make sure they stay on the extinct list!

– bjz, Philadelphia, PA USA, 01/10/2010 23:45

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