Friends of The Past: Animals We’ve Lost Through Time
At Adventure Alternative, animals big and small are close to our heart. We offer wildlife safaris across many of the world’s most famous safari locations and on our hiking treks and tours we have plenty of opportunity to spot the local wildlife. As such we’ve been lucky enough to witness some of the world’s most magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.
All of our trips are packed full with new adventures, but one tour group were in for a particularly exciting surprise while hiking in Mandala Mountain, Indonesia when they spotted the elusive New Guinea singing dog - which had until that point been feared extinct in its natural habitat.
Our tour director Tom Hewitt even managed to snap the second-ever photo to be taken of the New Guinea singing dog in the wild, which was also the first photo of the rare dog in its natural habitat to be taken in 23 years.
The New Guinea singing dog is now believed to be one of the rarest dogs in the world, and we’re always eager to see if we can spot any more on our treks in the area.
Another rare animal which we are lucky to have spotted several times is the Sunda clouded leopard, which is native to Borneo and Sumatra. The total population size of the Sunda clouded leopard is estimated at fewer than 10,000 and so spotting one of these majestic cats is a real treat.
However, while our sightings of the New Guinea singing dog and clouded leopards are exciting, they are also tinged with sadness as they serve as a reminder to us of the vulnerable conditions many animals are facing, with the fear of extinction a real threat to many of our most-loved species.
We are also reminded of the beloved animals we have lost over time - even as recently as 2016 the Aloatra Grebe, a native bird of Australia, became extinct.
As we reflected on the animals we’ve lost and those currently endangered, we decided to create our ‘Friends of the Past’ animation to commemorate the animal friends we’ve lost over time and raise awareness of wildlife currently at risk of extinction.
We have teamed up with animal rescue charity International Animal Rescue on creating our ‘Friends of the Past’ project. International Animal Rescue are an organization who work to protect and rescue animals from suffering around the world.
International Animal Rescue’s work includes rescuing and caring for captive bears in India and Armenia, protecting and conserving Critically Endangered orangutans and slow lorises in Indonesia and rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing howler monkeys in Costa Rica.
We are honoured to be working with International Animal Rescue on our ‘Friends of the Past’ project and helping to raise money towards their welfare efforts. If you wish to donate to International Animal Rescue, please quote #FriendsOfThePast when booking with us.
For every client who books with us quoting #FriendsOfThePast we will donate £25 to International Animal Rescue.
Have a look at our animated video below to find out more about some of the wonderful creatures who have become extinct through the years and read our animal bios below to find out further details about some of the animals featured.
Extinct: 70 million years ago
The deinocheirus was a genus of large ornithomimosaur, essentially a bird-like lizard or ‘ostrich dinosaur’ which lived during the Late Cretaceous period. For a long time not much was known about the deinocheirus, with the first set of remains being found in 1965. In 2014, further complete remains of the species were found, which provided greater insight into the unusual and fascinating creature.
The deinocheirus was a particularly large ornithomimosaur, at 36ft long and weighing 14,000lb. It was believed to be an omnivore, with its diet suggesting it often resided in water.
Location: Africa, Eurasia, North America
Extinct: Ice Age
You may know the woolly mammoth from the feature film Ice Age. The woolly mammoth lived across Africa, Eurasia and North America during the Pleistocene Epoch and was one of the last in a line of mammoth species. The woolly mammoth’s closest remaining relative is the Asian elephant, which is also currently endangered.
The study of the woolly mammoth is one of the most in-depth of all prehistoric animals meaning we know a lot about the creature, this is thanks to the discovery of frozen carcasses in Siberia and Alaska. The woolly mammoth was approximately the same size as an African elephant, with males reaching up to 11.2ft and females reaching heights of 9.5ft.
The woolly mammoth lived alongside the earliest form of humans but was hunted for its meat and tusks. The species eventually became extinct most likely due to climate change and human hunting.
The dodo is one of the most commonly known extinct creatures. The dodo was a flightless bird which was native to Mauritius. The closest living relative of the dodo is the Nicobar pigeon.
Based on subfossil remains the dodo is thought to have been just over 3ft tall and weighed around 20-40lb. There is no photographic evidence of the dodo’s living appearance and instead the dodo’s appearance is understood solely through drawings, paintings and written accounts – meaning depictions of the dodo’s exact appearance vary.
The dodo is often thought of as being ‘fat and clumsy’ however its now believed the bird was perfectly adapted to its eco-system. It is thought the bird was flightless due to the easy availability of food resources on the ground.
The dodo was hunted by sailors as well as other species and the last recorded sighting of the dodo was in 1662.
Falkland Islands Wolf
Location: Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands wolf was the only native land mammal living on the Falkland Islands. The wolf became extinct in 1876, and is believed to be the first mammal within the dog family (canid) to become extinct.
The Falkland Islands wolf was unique in many senses, not only was it the only native mammal of the Falkland Islands it was also the only modern Dusicyon - which is a now-extinct type of South American canid.
The Falkland Islands wolf faced many threats, including being hunted for its fur and being poisoned by settlers who regarded the wolf as a threat to their sheep.
The Pyrenean ibex was an Iberian wild goat which was endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. The species was also known commonly in Spain as bucardo.
The Pyrenean ibex became extinct in January 2000, and since then it has become a top priority for scientists to bring the species back.
In the Middle Ages Pyrenean ibex were abundant, however by the 20th century only a small population survived, living in the Ordesa National Park.
It’s believed the Pyrenean ibex’s extinction was the result of competition with domestic and wild animals with whom it had to share its range, alongside threat from hunting. However, exact reasons for its extinction remain unknown.
New Guinea Singing Dog
Location: New Guinea
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
The New Guinea singing dog had been feared extinct in the wild up until 2012 when we spotted one of the wild dogs on an Adventure Alternative trek in Indonesia.
Only two photographs of the New Guinea singing dog in the wild have ever been taken, and little is known about the rare dog.
Compared to similar species, the New Guinea singing dog is short-legged and broad-headed. They have distinctive almond-shaped eyes which shine green in low light. The dogs are typically described as shy, which we observed during our sighting.
The majority of New Guinea singing dogs now live in captivity in zoos and sanctuaries. The biggest threat facing the New Guinea singing dog is hybridization.
Location: Himalayas, Southeast Asia, China, Indonesia
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
As of 2006 the Sunda clouded leopard and the clouded leopard have been classed as two separate species, both of which are vulnerable.
The clouded leopard is a wild cat which resides from the Foothills of the Himalayas through to South East Asia and into China. The Sunda clouded leopard is native to Borneo and Sumatra, and is one rare animal we have been lucky to see on our Adventure Alternative treks.
The population of both the clouded leopard and the Sunda clouded leopard is estimated to be fewer than 10,000.
In spite of their similar name, clouded leopards are not closely related to the leopard.
The biggest threat facing both clouded leopards and Sunda clouded leopards is habitat loss due to deforestation. Poaching is another threat for clouded leopards and Sunda clouded leopards with the animals being hunted for their skin, claws and teeth.
Location: Indonesia, Malaysia
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Sumatran orangutans have been critically endangered since 2008, while Bornean orangutans joined them on the critically endangered list last year.
Since 1950 the population of Bornean orangutans has declined by 60%, with projections estimating a further 22% drop by 2025. The Sumatran orangutan population has declined by 85% over 75 years, and the species is now only found in the northern part of Sumatra.
Orangutans are the only exclusively Asian species of living great apes, and are one of the most intelligent primates.
Orangutans’ declining population can be attributed to habitat destruction, poaching and habitat destruction.
The conservation of orangutans in the wild is a key priority for many activist groups.
We have teamed up with charity International Animal Rescue to deliver our ‘Friends of the Past’ project in order to raise awareness and support for endangered animals.