10 Animals that Went Extinct in the 20th Century

10 Animals that Went Extinct in the 20th Century

As harsh as it might be, extinction is part of nature. Species that adapt successfully to their surroundings get to procreate and pass on their genes to new generations while less successful species die out, making way for new animals to come in and fill their niche. It’s a never-ending cycle that’s been going on for countless millennia. Of course, ever since humanity’s ascension, our need for territory and natural resources has increased the rate of extinction substantially. Here are ten species of animals that we lost in the last century.

1. Javan Tiger


Found only in the island of Java in Indonesia, the Javan tiger was extremely common during the 19th century. However, as the human population on the island grew during the 20th century, so did their need for extra territory to grow food. The loss of its territory along with declining numbers of the rusa deer, the tiger’s main food source, meant that, by the 1970s, the Javan tiger was almost extinct. Despite last ditch preservation efforts, the species went extinct by the end of the century.

2. Honshu Wolf

Honshu wolf

Commonly referred to as the Japanese wolf, the Honshu wolf was the smallest species of wolf in the world. It typically grew around one foot tall and closer resembled a dog in appearance than a wolf. Despite its diminutive size, the Honshu wolf preyed on animals much larger than it like deer and wild boar. It also acted as a pest killer which is why it was a favored pet of Japanese farmers. Despite its popularity, the Japanese wolf still went extinct over 100 years ago with the last specimen killed in 1905. All we have left are five mounted specimens in museums around the world.

3. Caribbean Monk Seal

seal caribbean monk

The last time a Caribbean monk seal has been officially spotted was in 1952 and the species has been declared extinct. Like the name implies, this seal was native to the Caribbean Islands. It was large for a seal, growing up to 8 feet in length and weighing up to 600 lbs. Unfortunately, this also made it an ideal food source for humans and sharks. It didn’t help matters that the seal was unafraid of humans and would curiously swim up to hunters.

4. Tasmanian Tiger

Thylacine featured

Although the actual name of this animal was thylacine, it was more commonly referred to as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. However, it wasn’t related to either one as the thylacine was a marsupial. At the beginning of the 20th century, the thylacine was mostly found only on the island of Tasmania. However, it was regarded as a pest that preyed on farm animals so the government put out a bounty for every killed thylacine. By the 1930s, the thylacine was considered extinct in the wild and the few surviving examples found in zoos were not enough to save this species from extinction.

5. Guam Flycatcher

Guam flycatcher

Endemic to the island of Guam, this tiny colorful bird hasn’t been spotted since 1983 and is officially declared extinct. The main reason for its disappearance was the introduction to the island of the brown tree snake during the 1940s. The bird was not prepared to deal with this predator and quickly became one of the snake’s main food sources.

6. Heath Hen

Photo: James St. John

Photo: James St. John

This bird was plentiful throughout North America for centuries. However, it had the unfortunate characteristic of being delicious which meant that it became a common food source for early settlers. It was so plentiful, in fact, that it gained a reputation as poor man’s food since it was inexpensive. Due to its abundance, people assumed the heath hen would always be around in spite of all the hunting, but they were wrong. The last heath hen died out in 1932.

7. Mexican Grizzly Bear

Mexican grizzly bear

The fate of the Mexican grizzly bear has not yet been sealed as people still hold out hope that there might be examples alive throughout their native habitat of Northern Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona. This bear was a pest for farmers and it was hunted almost to extinction. In the 1960s, only around 30 examples of Mexican grizzly bears were left which is why the species received protected status. However, this didn’t stop the hunting and, in just a few years, the bear was declared extinct. However, over a decade later another example of Mexican grizzly bear was found (and shot) in Sonora which is why people hope that it might still be out there.

8. Crescent Nail-Tail Wallaby

Crescent nail tail wallaby

The crescent nail-tail wallaby was a tiny marsupial characterized by its silky fur and horny spur located at the end of its tail. The population started to dwindle at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in densely-populated areas. It managed to hold out in Australia’s more arid regions until the 1950s and was declared extinct in 1956. Luckily, we still have its cousins, the northern and bridled nail-tail wallabies.

9. Syrian Wild Ass


This animal was quite small for an equine species, measuring up to 3 feet at shoulder height. It was notable for a colorful coat that changed with the seasons. It was found in Syria as its name implies, but also in surrounding regions in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Its numbers started declining during the 19th century and, by 1927, the last Syrian wild ass died in a zoo in Vienna.

10. Schomburgk’s Deer


This species of deer was native to Thailand. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an increase in the human population meant that the deer lost most of its natural habitat. This compounded with hunting led to its extinction in 1938. Only one mounted specimen exists in a museum in Paris, but certain conservationists are hopeful that the deer might still exist in the wild. About 25 years ago, a pair of Schomburgk’s deer antlers was found in a Chinese medicine shop.