Eulogy to the Mylodon

by Thomas Watkins

Heavier than a bull and taller than an upright polar bear, the Mylodon roamed the plains of Patagonia for millennia. Leaning against its thick long tail for support, it stood on its hind legs and reached high into trees for berries and leaves. Around it galloped herds of tiny horses, native to south America. The Mylodon, with thick, ossified scaly skin had no natural predators. Man arrived, via the Bering Strait then down through the continent, about 10,000 years ago. The animals he encountered, including the Mylodon and the horses, had evolved with no fear of this naked ape. Within only a few centuries of his arrival, the Mylodon, the horses and other Patagonian creatures were gone.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

RIP Thylacine

by Paul Watkins

A century ago you’d have bet a fiver

That Thylacinus cynocephalus was a great survivor

From Pliocene to the modern age

He’d done quite well outside a cage

The Tasmanian tiger was a wonderful creature

Famed as a dev’lish Antipodean feature

Unthreatened by a species failure

He graced Tasmania, New Guinea and Australia

He even made it to Washington Zoo

Where there’s a photo of him in 1902

But now alas Tassie Tiger has gone

From a number of thousands to a number of none

Dog invaders, disease and hunting for cash

have ensured his extinction in less than a flash

In the history of man there can be nothing zanier

Than the end of that devil, the Tiger of Tasmania

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy to the Aldabra Banded Snail

by Tamsin Shasha

I’m not a fan of snails if truth be told

But if the Aldabra Banded Snail

Were to grace my garden I would covet its exotic blue shell

And marvel at its purple home.

I’d feed it Marigolds and the sweetest tenderest Hosta leaves

and let it slide gracefully over the delicate swathes of Solomon’s seal

That sway gently in the breeze.

Delphiniums, Lupins and Columbines

I’d offer it too

And perhaps a Lily or Foxglove true

I’d light a candle to the smallness of its shell and and the subtle hues of purply blues

That dance and shine across its back.

I’d build a farm to keep it safe and

Invite its friends to slide and partake

Of all the rich delicacies which my garden profligates

But you see I can’t, because you don’t exist…

Except in my imagination

And I’m sorry that that’s true

I’m sorry I can’t share my garden with you.

Tamsin Shasha

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy for Extinct Species in Australia

by Julia Peddie

White man (n.) Description: Killer.
Boom Boom Boom. Guns used with greed and fear. Killed the black man, who was not considered a man, as this land was declared Terra Nullius – an uninhabited island. Disease, Missionaries and Assimilation programs, removed tribes from their ‘Country’, stole their children away and stripped the longest living culture on Earth to a tiny fragment of its former self. Lost was Culture. Songs, ceremonies, stories, paintings, lives, animal totems and over 700 languages were made extinct, through arrogance, greed and ignorance. It only took 150 years to exterminate the Tasmanian aborigines, while languages and culture on the mainland were being rapidly whittled away. The Dreamtime drifts on, untended by the aboriginal custodians, embedded in the land, impressions of ancient languages, of songs, of ceremony haunting a monumental landscape.
How many of the 23 birds, 4 frogs, and 27 mammal species known to have become extinct since European settlement of Australia, were animal totems of the aborigines? The three great human-introduced killer species: the European rabbit, the European Red Fox, and the domestic cat assisted further extinctions, not to mention extensive land-clearing, whereby people could not purchase land without clearing every tree and bush home of birds and tiny marsupials. Further poisoning of river systems, and destruction of ecosystems, as rivers continue to be sucked dry by industrial farming and over-distributed water licences. Then there’s the experiment of the Cane Toad, recently introduced to maintain another introduced species, spreading its poisonous skin into Arnhem land, threatening native species that have thus far managed to avoid the Invaders.
How I would have loved to have seen a Dwarf Emu, a Tasmanian Emu or The Gastric-brooding Frog, a Harlequin Lizard (Tasmania, again) or the Western Koala (boo hoo). Not to mention various Bettongs, Bandicoots, Brushtails, Lesser Bilby, Bats or the Broad faced Potoroo, Desert-Rat Kangaroo, many varieties of Wallabys, and lots more Native Mice and Rats. Let us mourn the Lake Pedder Earthworm.
And of course the Tassi Tiger (although myth has it he still secretly exists in the Wilderness of Tasmania.)
In the meantime, in the Dreamtime, 4 mammals, 6 birds, 2 reptiles, 3 fishes and 5 other species are listed as critically endangered. The Hairy Nosed Wombat is hanging on to existence with a few individuals fenced in a tiny Queensland forest. Many other birds, fish, frogs, insects, invertebrates and mammals are headed for the same fate, including the Grey Nurse Shark. …Then there’s the Tassi Devil and the common Koala who’s numbers are falling through disease.
The Invaders of Australia – my ancestors, should hang our heads in shame.

Julia Peddie

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

I mourn the Auroch

Eulogy to the Auroch

I mourn the Auroch, the giant forebear of modern de-natured cattle. I mourn the sweet, steaming breath of the herds that roamed the Kentish Weald. I mourn the deep, liquid gaze of its curious eyeball scanning me for my intent. I mourn the first stumbling steps of huge and humble calf, the lingering lick of outsized mother. I mourn the massive scent of auroch dung and its squelch beneath the little boots of my little lad. I mourn the scale of the auroch and the corruption of our sense of scale.

By Nigel Rayment

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eulogy to the Dodo

Eulogy to the Dodo

Dodo, we will never forget you. You have had the honour, or the misfortune, of becoming one of the most famous extinct animals. You have become an icon. The ultimate symbol of things which are over and done with.

But we mis-remember you, and I want to see your image rehabilitated.

You were a huge island bird, related to doves: perhaps you coo-ed, or doo-ed, and that is where your name came from. You wings were tiny: you lived on the ground.  Your stout legs were yellow, and you had a plume on your tail. You had no need of flight, because for thousands of years you had no predators on Mauritius, where you lived. You learned to fatten yourself on ripe fruit at the end of the wet season in order to live through the dry season each year. The drawings that we see of you now show overfed captive Dodos, so for centuries people have assumed that you were fat and clumsy – stupid, ridiculous in your inability to fly. They called you Didus Ineptus.

It was unfortunate that you were fearless of humans. When Portuguese travellers arrived around 1600, they didn’t like the taste of your flesh, but they brought with them plenty of other animals that did. Their dogs, cats, pigs, rats and monkeys easily plundered your nests, while the humans destroyed your forests.

A hundred years after your extinction, people had started to assume that you were a myth. You were too strange to have really existed. But Lewis Carroll wrote you into Alice In Wonderland and your place in history was guaranteed.

Sorry Dodo for ridiculing you.

Sorry for destroying your home.

Sorry for calling you Inept, and for blaming you for your own extinction.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Images of Lost Species

Irish Elk, Great Auk, Woolly Mammoth, Mylodon, Auroch

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

photos from the Funeral for Lost Species at Climate Emergency Vigil May 2010

photo by Jack Kelly

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment