A Very Important Conservation Anniversary
September 1 marks 100 years since Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. During the 1700's and 1800's this species was the most numerous bird on earth, with a population of 3 to 5 billion.
The forests and skies of the eastern USA were filled with these birds. When they migrated, the sky would be black with birds for hours—so black that you could not see the sun.
But we started cutting down the forests where they lived, and we hunted them for meat. In 1850, the population started to shrink dramatically. Between 1870 and 1880 the population started to collapse and by 1890 only small fragments of the population remained in a landscape that was once dominated by this species. Even as the population was crashing, hunting continued unabated. But, everyone thought that the passenger pigeon would share the earth with us forever.
While the last wild passenger pigeons disappeared in 1900, some were kept alive in zoos. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died alone one hundred years ago.
WE ANNIHILATED THE MOST ABUNDANT BIRD IN THE WORLD.
While this is a tragic story, it is what inspires our work. WE CAN'T LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN! This story is a poignant reminder of the need for strategic, timely and effective conservation. The 100th anniversary of the species’ disappearance reminds us all of the importance of protecting wildlife—before it's too late.
All of Pacific Biodiversity Institute's work is focused on this one aim. We can't take the abundance we find in nature for granted. We can't let one species after another disappear from this still very beautiful planet.
As many of you know, we are engaged in conservation science and support work in South America—sometimes called "the Bird Continent"—where abundant bird life still flourishes.
I was working with Lucila Castro, PBI Conservation Biologist, in the Chaco region of northern Argentina last year when we encountered immense flocks of native pigeons in the forests and surrounding lands. The pigeons were so numerous, they stopped us in our tracks. All we could do was watch. And suddenly, I remembered Martha—the last of her kind. I realized then that we have a tremendous opportunity to prevent similar tragedies from occurring again. We can learn from our past and rise to the challenge of protecting the abundance of nature that we still find around us.
On Labor Day, September 1, take a moment to remember Martha. And make a decision to join us in committment to do everything you can to protect the immense biodiversity that we still have around us—whether it is in the Salish Sea, the wild forests of Washington State, or the jungles and mountains of South America.
Help support our work by making a donation now.
Thank you for your interest, encouragement and support,
Peter Morrison, Executive Director