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Top 10 Extinct Animals That MAY BE ALIVE!

VO: Dan Paradis

Script written by Michael Wynands.

There are many animals thought to be extinct, but they may be alive today. From the Megalodon to the Japanese River Otter to the Passenger Pigeon, to the Javan Tiger to the Mexican Grizzly Bear to the Woolly Mammoth, these are animal species that vanished but could resurface someday. Are these extinct animals still alive today? Maybe; they could be found alive at any moment! WatchMojo counts down ten animals we thought were extinct but might be alive!

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Transcript
Script written by Michael Wynands.

Top 10 Extinct Animals That MAY BE ALIVE!


Gone for good… or just elusive? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 extinct animals alleged to still be alive.

For this list, we’re looking at animals that, despite being officially declared extinct by the scientific community, have since been the subject of unofficial sightings, rumors and theories suggesting that they may still be around. However, we won’t be considering any species deemed “lazarus taxon” - animals that were declared extinct only to have that official status changed back to “endangered” or “critically endangered”, after living specimens were found, confirming the survival of the species.

#10: Baiji [aka Yangtze River Dolphin]

Hydroelectricity might be a significantly cleaner energy source than oil, but it’s not without its cost. The Baiji is a freshwater dolphin unique to the Yangtze River. Important in traditional Chinese culture, it was called a goddess of protection and labeled a symbol of peace and prosperity, charged with watching over fishermen, their trade and the river itself. China’s industrialization seriously hurt the baiji population, but the Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric project is considered the final nail in the coffin of this playful aquatic species. Suffering serious loss of habitat, they were declared functionally extinct in 2006. However, one was reportedly spotted in the 2007, the first sighting since 2002. With another alleged sighting by amateur conservationists in 2016, some hold out hope for their survival.

#9: Mexican Grizzly Bear

In 1979, some big creature was leaving its mark on trees in Mexico... and based on the paw prints, it was a grizzly bear. But the Mexican grizzly bear was declared extinct in 1964. Here’s the thing with grizzly bears though - there have historically been various populations across North America. The extinct Mexican grizzly and California grizzly, alongside the extant Mainland grizzly and the Kodiak bear… are all nearly indistinguishable from one another. The last known Mexican grizzly was killed in 1960, but large brown bears have been spotted in areas where Mexican grizzlies once roamed in the years since. Have Mexican grizzlies survived, or has some other North American grizzly taken a very long stroll south of the border?

#8: Eastern Cougar [aka Eastern Puma]

No… we’re not talking the cast members of the short-lived “Real Housewives of D.C.” - that particular group appears to be gone for good. Also known as the eastern puma, this North American big cat was officially declared extinct in 2011 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The last confirmed sighting, according to official reports, was in Maine in 1938. But this particular kitty doesn’t seem to be aware of its own conservation status. Sightings have been reported all across the eastern states, and in the eastern provinces of Canada, with particularly high numbers in New Brunswick. While it’s considered extinct in the U.S., Canada doesn’t agree - they’ve declared its official status to be unknown, or that the data is “insufficient,” to declare for certain whether or not it still exists.

#7: Passenger Pigeon

If you live in the city, you’ve likely found yourself dreaming of a world without pigeons or, as some prefer to lovingly call them... “flying rats”. Well, be careful what you wish for. Passenger pigeons used to number in the billions, and while a variety of factors contributed to their demise, hunting was the primary contributor. The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died in captivity in 1914, officially bringing an end to the species. But some believe that a few of these birds are still in the wid. President Theodore Roosevelt himself reported seeing a bird or two a number of years after the last wild specimens were allegedly found. Most of the sightings come from the Ozarks, where they used to nest.

#6: Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Here’s to killing two birds in one century. The ivory-billed woodpecker was first believed extinct in 1920s, shortly after the passenger pigeon. This time, destruction of the species’ natural habitat was the driving force... although hunting helped. But then this woodpecker went and pulled a Lazarus act, with numerous reported sightings throughout the 1940s and beyond. It was taken off the extinct species list, only to be deemed possibly extinct all over again when the sightings stopped. In 2002 and 2004, there were sightings reported near the Pearl River in Louisiana and Cache River in Arkansas. These two accounts have sparked major investigations by Cornell University and a reward of $50,000 from the Nature Conservancy to anyone who can find a living specimen.

#5: Japanese Wolf

The Japanese wolf is one of two distinct subspecies that used to inhabit various islands in the Japanese archipelago. Hokkaido wolves were found on Hokkaido and its neighboring islands, before being systematically eliminated using strychnine-laced bait in the mid to late 19th century to facilitate the raising of livestock. The smaller species, the Honshu wolf, was found on Honshu and other islands. It is believed to have gone extinct in 1905, from habitat destruction, hunting and rabies. Various wolf sightings have been reported in Japan since this alleged double extinction, but without ever having successfully captured a specimen, it’s impossible to say which of the two may still be kicking. Who knows, it could be both of them!

#4: Javan Tiger

When a species is limited to a single island, it’s a lot easier to kill off. Sadly, the Javan tiger had nowhere to go once the people on the island of Java began deforestation to increase their rice crops. Between the 1930s and 1970s, the forested area was cut back from 23% to less than 8%, essentially leaving these creatures without a habitat. And even up until their extinction, the remaining tigers were treated as a threat, as they continued to attack livestock. The last tiger to be seen, shot and killed was in 1971. But since then, there have been a handful of sightings, and researchers have found fur, paw prints and fecal matter consistent with that of the big cat.

#3: Japanese River Otter

Who doesn’t love a good playful otter video? They’re adorable! In another world, we could be watching Japanese otters frolicking too, but sadly, no video footage and hardly any photos exist; we really only have taxidermied remains and skeletons. Japanese river otters used to be common. But in the Meiji Period (the same era in which Hokkaido wolves were rendered extinct), these otters became highly prized for their pelts. Even after hunting regulations were implemented, river pollution and destruction of their habitat hurt the population. Sightings were sporadic at best from 1930 to the 1990s, and in 2012, they were finally declared extinct. Funnily enough, the very next year, fresh alleged sightings began to pop up.

#2: Tasmanian Tiger [aka Thylacine]

Thylacines were hunted down on their native island of Tasmania due to the threat they posed to livestock. Based on the discovery of skeletal remains and depictions in rock art, we know that Tasmanian tigers once inhabited Australia and New Guinea. However, by the time Australia was colonized, they appear to have died off everywhere but Tasmania. Benjamin, a resident of the Hobart zoo, was the last known thylacine – in captivity, anyway – and he died in 1936. However, following international standards about animals in the wild, the species was only officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nation in 1982… even though there have been thousands of unconfirmed sightings since the mid-1930s. Whether they truly survive in the wild is anyone’s guess, but some scientists are convinced they can bring them back using genetic material and cloning - Jurassic Park style.

Before we unveil our top pick, here’s an honorable mention.
- Wooly Mammoth

#1: Megalodon

Alright… there’s little to suggest that megalodons actually still exist, and a lot of scientists are very unhappy with the Discovery Channel for ever suggesting otherwise. The megalodon was a massive shark that ruled the oceans 23 million years ago. There has been no evidence, signs or reputable sightings of this mammoth shark from eons past. That being said, with the relatively recent discovery of once thought to be extinct ancient sea creatures, such as the coelacanth, who’s to say what can and cannot exist? Science has been wrong before. At this moment, there are legions of megalodon supporters out there protecting the right to exist of this deep-sea legend.

Do you agree with our list? If you could rediscover any one of these allegedly extinct animals and keep it as pet, which one would it be? For more “stranger than fiction” top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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