Today, 1st September, marks the 105th anniversary of the death of a pigeon named Martha. True, pigeons die everyday without fanfare, but the death of Martha was significant, for she was the last know living passenger pigeon, a species that at one point was common across North America. Following the arrival of Europeans on the continent, hunting and deforestation caused a dramatic decline in numbers. Very little effort was made to protect them, and the birds had become effectively extinct in the wild by the turn of the twentieth century. A passenger pigeon shot in March of 1901, which was stuffed and mounted in a university, is the last authenticated case of a wild pigeon, although there were sporadic claims of pigeons being seen for a few years after that.
Too late, it was realised that the passenger pigeon was on the verge of vanishing entirely, and efforts were made to breed birds that were kept in captivity, most notably at Cincinnati Zoo. However, there were not enough pigeons left, and their numbers dwindled further. Following the death of the remaining two male pigeons in 1910, Martha became the last known survivor, giving her the undesirable status of “endling”, a word which denotes an individual that is the last of their species. She became a cause célèbre, and a reward of $1000 (which would have been akin to about $25,000 in modern value) was offered for anybody who could capture a male pigeon in an effort to keep the species going. However, a mate was never found, and Martha died at 1 p.m. on this day in 1914. She was roughly 29 years old at the time.
The passenger pigeon could be thought of as America’s dodo. At this point in time, the idea that human activity could completely wipe out a common species of animal was barely considered. It was only now that people realised, retrospectively, that they could have saved the passenger pigeon with conservation efforts. Following her death, Martha was stuffed and displayed at the National Museum, and was moved around in the following decades to different institutions. In 1956 she was the centre piece of a Smithsonian exhibit about extinction, and in 1966 became the mascot for a conference on conservation. Most biologists who study extinction consider Martha to be a somewhat morbid celebrity, acting as a cautionary tale about the danger of overhunting and deforestation.
Unfortunately, since that time, many hundreds of species have continued to go extinct. Eight further species of birds in North America alone have been lost since the passenger pigeon. As deforestation continues, and the Amazon rainforest literally burns, today is a good day to remember Martha and the warning that her life and death have left behind.
Unlike the passenger pigeon, our webinars won’t be going extinct any time soon. We’ve got a lot of great webinars for you this week, so here’s what you can look forward to:
Sunday 1st September 2019, 7:00 pm
Presented by Mike Scanlan
Tune in and relax with our new meditation session from Mike Scanlan. Get your stress under control and face the world with calmness and purpose.
Wednesday 4th September 2019, 8:00 pm
By André DesrochersDMV, MS, DACVS, Dip. ECBHM
The second most common cause of lameness is from the joint. Although not as common as claw diseases, the consequences of septic arthritis are dramatic if left untreated with potential irreversible joint function. It is a painful disease requiring a rapid medical decision. It can also be the first sign of a contagious disease like Mycoplasma bovis. The emphasis of this presentation will be on the diagnostic process and the clinical management of septic arthritis. We will review the common diagnostic procedures available including arthrocentesis and medical imaging. We will discuss the principles of medical therapy and surgical approaches of the commonly affected joints like the carpus, stifle, tarsus and stifle.
Thusday 5th September 2019, 8:30 pm
By Clare WilsonMA VetMB CCAB MRCVS PGDipCABC
This webinar will provide an introduction to normal feline behaviour and relate this to the context of working with feline patients in the practice setting. In addition to looking at the domestication of felines in order to understand who the modern cat is, the presentation will also discuss behavioural development of kittens, feline social behaviour and communication strategies. This foundation in feline behaviour aims to assist veterinary staff in being better able to understand their patients and how avoidance or aggressive responses may be avoided through appropriate handling.