The U.S National Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday is expected to announce the extinction of 23 species, including the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, an elusive bird long-sought after by bird watchers throughout the southeast United States.
The New York Times reports the list of extinctions includes 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat and a plant. Many of them were likely extinct, or almost so, by the time the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973.
The measure is intended to provide special protection for rare species on the brink of extinction.
U.S. officials have determined no amount of conservation would have been able to save these particular species.
Fish and Wildlife Species Classification Specialist Bridget Fahey told the Times, “Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity. And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
Wildlife experts cite loss of habitat, usually due to human activities, as the top driver of extinction of species. Farming, logging, mining and damming take habitat from animals, while pollution and poaching drive down numbers as well.
U.S. government scientists do not declare extinctions casually. It often takes decades of fruitless searching. About half of the species in this group were already considered extinct by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of animals and plants.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tend to move more slowly, in part because it is working through a backlog, but also to exhaust all efforts to follow up reports of sightings.
In the case of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of both sightings of the large, colorful red, white and black bird with a large beak and head feathers, and of hearing its distinctive call in the woods.
The U.S. broadcaster National Public Radio reports the IUCN is not putting the bird on its extinction list because they believe it may still exist in parts of Cuba.
Some information in this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters news organizations.