This category includes species only known to survive in captivity or as naturalized populations outside their historical range. Despite concerted efforts, these species are no longer found in their natural habitat.
The IUCN uses the “Extinct in the Wild (EW)” category to classify species still surviving but no longer existing in their natural habitats. Instead, these species can only be found in captivity, in zoos, in botanical gardens, or as naturalized populations well outside their historic range.
Species can reach this stage for various reasons, but typically it’s due to critical threats that have rendered their natural habitats uninhabitable. These threats can be anthropogenic (human-caused), such as habitat destruction, poaching, pollution, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species, as well as natural threats like diseases or catastrophic events.
One of the most well-known examples of an Extinct in the Wild species is the Pere David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus). This deer species, native to the river valleys of China, was declared Extinct in the Wild in the late 19th century due to overhunting and habitat loss. However, a few individuals survived in captivity in Europe. Conservation efforts have since reintroduced the species into protected areas in China. Still, they remain classified as Extinct in the Wild due to their lack of a self-sustaining population in their natural habitat.
Another example is the Guam Rail (Gallirallus owstoni), a flightless bird declared Extinct in the Wild in the 1980s after the invasive brown tree snake decimated its population. Efforts to breed the bird in captivity have been successful, and it has been reintroduced to the nearby snake-free island of Rota.
The EW status is critical as it can serve as an intermediate stage in conservation efforts between a species being critically endangered and becoming extinct. It allows for reintroduction and recovery programs to restore the species to its natural environment. Nonetheless, the Extinct in the Wild category underscores the urgent need for comprehensive and effective conservation strategies.
Discover Animals that are Extinct in the Wild (EW):