The Quagga (Equus quagga quagga) was a subspecies of the plains zebra that once roamed the grasslands of South Africa. It was known for its unique striped pattern on the front of its body, while the rest of its body was a solid brown color. Unfortunately, the Quagga went extinct in the late 19th century due to a combination of hunting, habitat loss, and other causes.
Today, we will briefly examine the reasons for the Quagga’s extinction one by one and also go over the efforts that have been made to bring the subspecies back to life. Let’s dive in…
Hunting For Meat And Hides
Hunting was a major factor in the Quagga’s extinction. European settlers in South Africa saw the Quagga as a nuisance and hunted them for their meat and hides. The Quagga’s unique striped pattern also made them a popular target for sport hunting. As the population of European settlers in South Africa increased, so did the hunting pressure on the Quagga. By the late 19th century, the Quagga population had declined significantly.
Habitat Loss Due To European Settlements
Habitat loss also played a role in the Quagga’s extinction. The grasslands where the Quagga lived were prime real estate for European settlers, who cleared the land for agriculture and grazing. The Quagga’s habitat was also impacted by the introduction of domestic livestock, which competed with the Quagga for food and water. The loss of habitat made it difficult for the Quagga to survive and reproduce.
Low Birth And Slow Reproduction Rate
The Quagga’s population decline was also compounded by the fact that they were a slow-reproducing species. Unlike other subspecies of zebra, the Quagga had a low birthrate and did not produce many foals. This made it difficult for the Quagga to recover from hunting and habitat loss.
Sport hunting refers to the practice of hunting for leisure or recreation rather than sustenance or commercial purposes. The Quagga’s unique striped pattern made it a popular target for sport hunting during the 19th century when European settlers arrived in South Africa. These settlers saw the animal as a challenge to hunt, and its unique pattern made it a prized trophy for hunters. The sport hunting of the Quagga, along with hunting for meat and hides, significantly contributed to the decline of its population.
Last-Known Quagga In The Wild And Captivity
The last known wild Quagga was shot in 1878, and the last captive Quagga died in Amsterdam Zoo in 1883. Since then, there have been efforts to bring the Quagga back to life through a process known as “rewilding.”
What Is Rewilding?
Rewilding is a form of ecological restoration and conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas. The idea behind rewilding is to use selective breeding to recreate the Quagga from closely related subspecies of the zebra. The Quagga Project, which was founded in 1987, has been working to breed zebras that resemble the Quagga and reintroduce them into the wild.
The Quagga Project
The Quagga Project has had some success in creating zebras that resemble the Quagga, but the process has been difficult and time-consuming. The project has faced criticism from some scientists who argue that the Quagga Project’s zebras are not truly quagga but rather a different subspecies of zebra.
In the 1980s, a taxidermist in South Africa named Reinhold Rau came up with the idea for the Quagga Project, speculating that selective breeding of modern-day zebras could restore the quagga. He gathered researchers and enthusiasts and began breeding zebras to produce six distinct traits:
- Unstriped legs
- Unstriped tail
- Reddish muzzle
- Decreased body stripes
- Body stripes not extending to the ventral midline
- A chestnut basic color on unstripped upper parts of the body
The subspecies created through the Quagga Project are called “Rau quagga.” According to Mail and Guardian, there are now 200 Rau Quagga in South Africa. This is the latest update on the Quagga Project from February 2023.
Despite the challenges, the Quagga Project continues to work towards reintroducing zebras that resemble the Quagga into the wild. The project has also raised awareness about the importance of conservation and the dangers of extinction. The Quagga’s extinction serves as a reminder of the impact that human actions can have on the natural world and the need to protect endangered species.
Other Extinct Animals You Should Know About
- The Dodo bird, a flightless bird native to the island of Mauritius, was driven to extinction in the late 17th century as a result of hunting by sailors and the introduction of invasive species such as rats and pigs.
- The Passenger pigeon, once one of the most abundant bird species in North America, was hunted to extinction in the late 19th century.
- A flightless bird that lived in the North Atlantic called the Great Auk was hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century for its feathers and oil.
- The thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, a marsupial native to Australia and Tasmania, was hunted to extinction in the 20th century.
- A subspecies of lions that lived in North Africa called the Barbary lion was hunted to extinction in the 20th century.
- The Woolly Mammoth, a large mammal that lived during the last ice age, became extinct around 4,000 years ago, likely as a result of a combination of hunting and climate change.
- The Saber-toothed tiger, a large predator that lived during the ice age, became extinct around 10,000 years ago, likely as a result of a combination of hunting and climate change.
- A large mammal that lived during the ice age called the Giant Ground sloth became extinct around 10,000 years ago, likely as a result of a combination of hunting and climate change.
- The Steller’s sea cow, a large marine mammal that lived in the North Pacific, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century.
In conclusion, the Quagga went extinct due to a combination of hunting and habitat loss. Their unique striped pattern made them a popular target for sport hunting, and the loss of habitat made it even more difficult for the Quagga to survive and reproduce. Since their extinction, there have been efforts to bring the Quagga back to life through selective breeding and reintroduction into the wild. Their extinction serves as a reminder of the importance of conservation and the dangers of extinction. It is important to learn from the past and take action to protect endangered species before it’s too late.