Going, Going...Gone? graphic title
Going, Going... Gone? graphic title

You will never see the great auk, the laughing owl, or the O’ahu ‘O’o at the zoo or even in the wild because these species are gone forever. That's extinction—when all the members of a species have died. Once a species becomes extinct, our planet changes forever.

Extinction is a natural part of our Earth’s history, but today species are becoming extinct faster than ever. Every year, new species are becoming threatened with extinction.

Illustration of California Condor soaring above a canyon

California Condor

Illustration of three whooping cranes at the water's edge

Whooping Crane

Illustration of Bengal tiger near the water's edge

Bengal Tiger

illustration of an owl soaring between trees

Northen Spotted Owl

Key: black=Extinct, red=Critically Endangered, orange=Endangered, mustard=Vulnerable, yellow=Threatened
Illustration of the black and white Great Auk

Great Auk

Illustration of brown laughing owls

Laughing Owl

Illustration of black and yellow O'ahu 'O'o birds

O'ahu 'O'o

illustration of a Goliath Frog with tongue sticking out

Goliath Frog

Illustration of a gray Kagu


Illustration of a mountain gorilla in the forests of central Africa

Mountain Gorilla

Illustration of a mountain gorilla in the forests of central Africa

Mountain Gorilla

What causes extinction?

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Habitat Loss

pollution cloud icon


Sun icon

Global Climate Change

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green snake icon

Invasive Species

How are scientists protecting species?

When a species is endangered , scientists monitor it closely year after year. Accurate information about population size and distribution helps scientists plan conservation efforts and identify areas where the species is in most danger. Then they can take action before it’s too late.

sea horse

The Pipefish and the Seahorse

In 1994, a South African river pipefish was listed as extinct. But one year later, a healthy new population was discovered. This second chance to save the pipefish might have been lost if scientists hadn’t monitored local species.

Some species of seahorse, close relatives of the pipefish, are also under threat. Large numbers are taken from the wild and sold for home aquariums. Seahorses also live in threatened marine habitats , like coral reefs . By tracking seahorse populations, scientists can trace these problems and find solutions. Now they’re working with fishermen to set up seahorse sanctuaries.

Image Credits:

Photos: How do you know when a species has become extinct?: Pacific seahorse: courtesy of Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences; Illustrations: Introductory page: letters and their animations: Eric Hamilton; great auk: courtesy of AMNH Department of Library Services, #6266, extinct 1844. By Charles Hamilton Smith, from Charles Hamilton Smith, Original Drawings, 1795-1859. 23 vols; laughing owl: courtesy of AMNH Department of Library Services, #6253, extinct New Zealand, c. 1914. By John G. Keulemans, from G. D. Rowley, Ornithological miscellany, vol. 1. London: 1875.; O'ahu 'O'o: courtesy of AMNH Department of Library Services, #6286, By John G. Keulemans, from Lionel Walter Rothschild, The avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands, London, 1893-1900; endangered ticker animals: Patricia J. Wynne