Correction: We Adjusted the original title on this article to better emphasize that the Eastern Puma Has long vanished, and it didn’t go extinct recently.
On 22nd of January, 2018 Eastern Pumas were officially declared extinct. These beautiful, proud felines were once found all along the eastern side of the Mississippi River and now their time has passed. This is hardly a new phenomenon. We hear about at least one species going extinct every week but there’s no such thing as getting used to it. When the US Fish and Wildlife Service officially put out the news that the Eastern Puma had been moved from the ‘endangered’ to the ‘extinct’ category, it was expected by the conservationists.
This wasn’t a sudden occurrence. For the past hundred years, the species has been teetering on the brink of extinction. At the turn of the 20th century, hunters and trappers had already wiped out most of the population. According to Mark Elbroch who is the leading expert in Panthera’s puma division believes that the animals have been going into extinction for a long time.
It was only in 2011 that the US Fish and Wildlife Service started intensively researching the situation of the Eastern Puma. They typically live in the forests and marshes along the coast and they have been in the endangered category since 1973 despite never being seen in their usual habitats for the last thirty years. A hunter in Maine killed the last recorded member of the species as far back as 1938. This was before World War II had even started.
Four years ago, biologists working in the federal wildlife department had independently concluded that nothing could be done to save the pumas on the East coast. They concluded that there was no longer any point in keeping them under the ambit of the Endangered Species Act with the protections it has to offer.
Genetically, the pumas as related to the mountain lions which can still be found in the western regions of North America. They’re also family to the Florida panther which lives only in the Everglades. These Panthers are also highly endangered and their numbers are diminishing every year. The Eastern Puma was about eight feet in length from the tip of their noses to their tails and weighed over 60 kgs in their prime. They were majestic in every way and they used to be the most commonly found mammal living on land in this part of the world.
Of course, good things only last until human beings come along. After a systematic effort to exterminate them and the encroachment on their living areas, the species has been fully wiped out. Many were captured for their beautiful pelts and many more were killed for stealing people’s cattle and poultry.
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However, some conservationists still hold out hope. By moving them to the extinct category, they might be able to find more avenues to revive the population with some assistance from their many relatives. Carnivores of this size are very useful in ensuring that deer don’t multiply at unsustainable levels and prevent the spread of diseases caused by ticks which are harmful to humans. Therefore, it is quite necessary for the states in that area to work on reintroducing this species to the wild.
Luckily, as more and more people are becoming aware that other species need to be protected, there is more discourse than ever on the topic. New efforts are being made every day and if we all do our best, we might be able to save the other creatures who belong here with us.
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia