Lost Animals: Extinction and the photographic record

Lost Animals: Extinction and the photographic record
Errol Fuller, Princeton University Press (2014), RRP $49.99 (Hardback)

In 2002 Qi Qi, the last known Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji, died after 22 years in captivity, a victim of diabetes and China’s economic success. His body, stuffed and enamelled, now lies in the Hydrobiology Institute in Wuhan, a testament to how the march to industrialism wiped his species from the evolutionary slate.

Qi Qi is just one of 28 creatures lost to the world, that feature in this melancholy book where the cause of loss is repeated again and again – over-fishing or hunting, habitat destruction and degraded ecosystems.

Some familiar specimens are here, including Tasmania’s Thylacine and the North American Passenger Pigeon, which in a little over a century dwindled an estimated five billion to zero.

This is not an encyclopaedic book, but is still a charming valedictory for a handful of creatures that have gone for good.

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