The baiji, a rare species of freshwater dolphin, has been declared extinct:
The baiji dates back 20 million years. Chinese called it the "goddess of the Yangtze." For China, its disappearance symbolizes how unbridled economic growth is changing the country's environment irreparably....On the bright side, it's been immortalized on this bottlecap:
Around 400 baiji were believed to be living in the Yangtze in the early 1980s, when China was just launching the free-market reforms that have transformed its economy. The last full-fledged search, in 1997, yielded 13 confirmed sightings, and a fisherman claimed to have seen a baiji in 2004.
Clearly, the baiji failed to adapt. Only a lunatic would suggest that we've failed to adapt to the world that sustained it for 20 million years. The baiji was unfit, but we're not. That's obvious, isn't it?
Here's Matthew Scully in Dominion:
In a strange way the more insistent human beings are of our singularity among creatures, the more aggressive and vocal in denigrating animals, the more indistinct and small we ourselves come to seem. And somehow the more humble we are in outlook, the more attentive and appreciative of the life around us, the more acutely we will feel our uniqueness and the special calling it brings.UPDATE: You can listen to baiji sounds here. Bookmark it for your kids, so that they'll know what "the first large mammal brought to extinction as a result of human destruction to their natural habitat" sounded like. (Via Baiji.org.)