The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Great Auk

Status: Critically endangered

The Great Auk once roamed the whole of the North Atlantic, making itself at home in the Grand Principality of Norway, State of Iceland, Greenland, Quebec and the British isles. They are a penguin-like bird, in fact the word penguin is derived from an old Celtic language and was in reference to the Auk, and spend most of their time at sea. It is there, that they are relatively safe. However, they nest on rocky islands across the ocean. The Auk has been hunted by indigenous peoples for millennia, but it was not until a thousand years ago that a wide-scale hunting was enacted. A demand for their down drove the hunting industry. The Little Ice Age (circa 1350 to 1850) also had an impact on their populations. During the 18th Century, collectors began harvesting eggs and taking adult for taxidermy. By 1850, the Auk teetered on extinction. The United Provinces declared hunting the Auk off-limits until their populations rebounded. As is, today, the Great Auk can only be found on a handful of rocky islands off the coasts of Iceland and Greenland. It is estimated that less than five thousand Great Auks still exist in the wild. The United Provinces, along with international wildlife organizations have declared the species to be Critically Endangered. A single disastrous tsunami in the North Atlantic could wipe the species out. The World Wildlife Fund along with Zoos in the U.P., Canada, United States, Sweden and France, have initiated a breeding and reintroduction program for the species.

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