Caspian Tiger – It Was Very Good

Caspian Tiger
Caspian Tiger at the Berlin Zoo, 1899

Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata)

The Caspian Tiger was native to the sparse forests and river corridors east of the Black Sea, around the Caspian sea and extending eastwards through Turkey, Iran, and through Central Asia into western China. The Caspian Tiger averaged 10 feet in length. Males were much larger than females with an average weight of 450 pounds. Females were averaged 250 pounds.

The Tiger’s coat was brighter and more uniform than that of the Siberian tiger. The stripes were narrower, fuller and more closely set than that of other tiger species. Pure black patterns were found only on the head, neck, the middle of the back and at the tip of the tail. The contrast between the summer and winter coats was sharp, Caspians had the thickest fur of all tigers.

Caspian Tiger
Preserved Caspian tiger Azerbaijan, Farrokh Mostofi, 2002

The Caspian Tiger almost made it into the 21st century. The last documented and confirmed killing was recorded in 1970 in Turkey. The last sighting of the animal in the wild was in 1998 in the wilderness between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The animal was driven to extinction through over-hunting of them and their prey. The conversion of their habitat into farmland also contributed to the species’ demise.

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Carpathian Wisent – It Was Very Good

Carpathian Wisent
Caucasian Wisent – A close cousin to the Carpathian Wisent.

Carpathian Wisent (Bison bonasus hungarorum)

The Carpathian Wisent was a subspecies of European Bison native to the Carpathian mountain range, Moldavia, and Transylvania.

The Carpathian Wisent resembled the European Bison in that its coat was dense and dark brown to golden brown in color.  The neck was short, maned, and thick, topped by a shoulder hump.  The head is carried relatively high.  The horns, found in both sexes, projected outwards and curved upwards and slightly forwards.

The encroachment of humans and their domesticated animals on its range, as well as increased hunting, lead to the extinction of the species. The last Carpathian Wisent was shot in Maramureș in 1852.

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Caribbean Monk Seal – It Was Very Good

Caribbean Monk Seal
Caribbean Monk Seal as depicted in “The Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States”, by George Brown Goode

Caribbean Monk Seal (Neomonachus tropicali)

The Caribbean monk seal, West Indian seal or sea wolf was a species of seal native to the warm temperate, subtropical and tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the west Atlantic Ocean. The seal had a relatively large, long, robust body, that could grow to be 8 ft in length and weigh between 375 to 600 lb. The Caribbean monk seal had a distinctive head and face. Their coloration was brownish and grayish with a lighter underside. They were also known to have algae growing on their fur, giving them a slight green tinge.

Caribbean Monk Seal
Two young Caribbean Monk Seals in New York Aquarium, 1910

The first historical mention of the Caribbean monk seal is recorded in the account of the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. Wherein the famous explorer killed eight of the animals while they rested on the beach. The animals were routinely slaughtered in large animals for their oil. By 1850 so many seals had been killed that there were no longer sufficient numbers for them to be commercially hunted.

The last confirmed sighting of the seal was in 1952 in the Caribbean Sea at Seranilla Bank, between Jamaica and the Yucatán Peninsula. After an extensive five-year study, the Monk seal was declared extinct in 2008.

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Cape Lion – It Was Very Good

Cape Lion
Only known photo of a live Cape Lion, in Jardin des Plantes, Paris, 1860

Cape Lion (Panthera leo melanochaitus)

The Cape Lion was native to the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent. It is believed the lion was the largest and heaviest of the sub-Saharan lions. The Cape Lion was recognizable by it thick black mane and black tipped ears. The species was especially noted for its “luxuriant and extensive manes.”

Cape Lion
Drawing of a Cape Lion by Rembrandt, 1650

The Cape Lion, unlike most other extinct big cats, was hunted to extinction. Unlike other species that slowly driven extinct by habitat loss or removal of their prey. The last known adult was killed in South Africa in 1858.  A juvenile was captured by an explorer a couple of decades later but died in captivity shortly thereafter.

In 2000, South African zoo director John Spence believed he had located a pair of the Lion in captivity. The putative Cape Lions were living at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia.  Spence announced plans to perform us genetic testing to determine if the lions truly were Cape Lions. If so, a captive breeding program would be implemented with the hopes of bringing the species back from extinction.

Unfortunately, Spence died in 2010 and the Novosibirsk Zoo closed a couple of years later.

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