JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – After decades of searching for a glimpse of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the U.S. government has officially declared the species extinct.
Thousands of people flocked to the delta in 2005 when sightings of the bird were reported.
These sightings have never been confirmed, which means that the last official sighting was in 1944 in Louisiana.
The ivory-billed woodpecker is just one of 23 species recently declared extinct by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Dr Tom Risch, vice president of research and technology transfer at A-State, said it was the most species on the extinction list at one time.
“This highlights the current extinction rates we are experiencing around the world,” Risch said. “Which are a thousand times higher than the pre-human species. So there are concerns about extinction rates in general.
Risch said the ivory-billed woodpecker is popular with bird watchers and bird watchers, and people will continue to look for it.
Many people confuse the ivory-billed woodpecker with the more common greater woodpecker.
“It’s a really big, very big, loud, obvious peak that’s really fun to watch and that’s pretty common here,” Risch said.
Risch said the pileated woodpecker has less white on its body and does not have the distinct ivory beak that gives the ivory beak its name.
Risch said the loss of these species not only impacts the ecosystems they live in, but takes the conversation away from the habitats they once called home.
Ivory-billed Woodpeckers lived in cypress swamps in the southeast, habitat that has been largely destroyed by humans.
“They went missing because we lost this habitat,” Risch said. “As long as the species was listed, we had a way to talk about the bird and its habitat and endangered habitats in the Southeast. In a way it’s a shame that they declared them off because those conversations are going to fade away.
Risch said if people can gain anything from the loss of these animals, it’s the importance of preserving habitats and protecting species considered endangered.
“We basically need all of us to avoid extinction,” Risch said. “Extinction is forever, and being proactive in preventing extinction is a big push.”
An example given by Risch is the mascot of A-State, the American red wolf.
“This species has already been found throughout the Southeast, from Texas to Florida and even in southern New York,” Risch said. “He was taken out of nature. Then it was reintroduced into the wild in North Carolina, and it takes a lot of effort.
Reintroducing a species to the wild requires buy-in from community and landowners, state and federal agencies, and researchers.
Red wolves are the most endangered wolves in the world, with only 18 living in the wild and around 260 worldwide.
“Here is another example of an iconic Southeastern species like the woodpecker that will take a lot of effort to avoid extinction,” Risch said.
Risch said that while the loss of the ivory-billed woodpecker is sad, there is hope it can help keep the focus on endangered species.
“By working together we can preserve our species,” said Risch. “It’s a societal effort, so people need to understand how important it is. “
To find a full list of endangered animals, visit the US Fish and Wildlife website here.
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