Three species are lost to eternity every hour. November 30th annually is a chance to learn and tell their stories, and to renew commitments to those remaining.
Participate in Remembrance Day for Lost Species by holding – or joining – any kind of memorial to lost species or places. This could take the form of an art project, a procession, lighting a candle, planting a tree, or any kind of action you like.
Martha’s Flock at the Life Cairn, Mount Caburn 2014. Photos: Robin Taylor
Remembrance Day for Lost Species is driven by a growing coalition of artists, educators, museum curators, scientists and writers. It is also supported by the MEMO project and Extinction Symbol. In 2014, WWF-UK reported in its Living Planet report that Earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years. However, worse is to come as climate change and habitat loss are leading us into the Sixth Mass Extinction.Now is the time to create new rituals for remembering and mourning those we have lost, and for celebrating and making commitments to those remaining.
Passenger Pigeon war memorial, Camilla Schofield, 2011. Photo: Rebecca Anson
Since 2011, groups in the UK and internationally have met on the last day of November to hold memorials for extinct species. There have been several ceremonies for the Great Auk (d.1852), including a burial at sea and funeral pyres in coastal Wales and Scotland. In Belgium, families lit candles for disappeared indigenous butterflies. In Brighton, paper flags inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead were waved in a procession for the Caribbean Monk Seal (d.1952). In 2014 there were a number of centenary memorials to the Passenger Pigeon (d.1914).
At a time of heightened awareness of the dangers of fragmentation and isolation politically and ecologically, the focus of RDLS 2016 is on two particular extinction stories that relate to the theme of islands and seas:
1. The 80th anniversary of the extinction of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger) on September 7th 1936. This was a top predator, wiped out by hunting and habitat destruction in the twentieth century. The thylacine’s story is largely forgotten, along with the stories of indigenous Tasmanian people. Tasmania is an island close to Australia. Island species are vulnerable because they cannot escape from introduced threats.
Thylacine Ghost by Gabbee Stolp
2. May 2016 saw the announcement of the extinction, due to sea level rise, of the Bramble Cay melomys – a small rat-like creature which lived on a low-lying coral cay on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is the first mammal to officially disappear forever due to anthropogenic climate change and the harbinger of many more to follow. The situation for the Great Barrier Reef is increasingly grave as ocean temperatures rise and acidify.
Bramble Cay melomys by Rebecca Edwards
Some coalition members:
- The Life Cairn, an international group that builds stone cairns as a focus for memorials to extinct species
- Feral Theatre, a theatre company that explores loss, death and memory through performance often in outdoor spaces
- ONCA‘s mission is to inspire creativity and positive action in the face of environmental change
- Bridget McKenzie leads Flow UK, a cultural learning consultancy based in London
- Dark Mountain artists and curators Nick Hunt and Dougie Strang
- Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky and co-leader of Project Passenger Pigeon
- Extinction Witness founder, US-based poet Megan Hollingsworth
- MEMO Project, an iconic architectural project to build a permanent memorial to extinct species on the Isle of Portland
- Sew the Seeds textile artist Sherrell Biggerstaff Cuneo
- Brandon Ballengee, US-based artist/biologist
- Zoomorphic magazine co-editor, poet Susan Richardson
- Errol Fuller, painter and author of The Great Auk, Dodo, Extinct Birds and Lost Animals
- Amphibian Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to creating and implementing lasting solutions to the global amphibian extinction crisis
- Buglife – the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, working to save Britain’s rarest little animals, from jumping spiders to jellyfish
- Extinction Symbol – our logo is based on the extinction symbol. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species.
logo designed by Julia Peddie