You’ve probably heard of the Tasmanian devil. It’s a noisy, aggressive creature that is sometimes seen spinning around in cartoons. It also has the distinction of being the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. But a century ago, the Tasmanian devil didn’t hold that title – it was beaten in size by another Tasmanian resident, the thylacine.
The dodo has the unenviable distinction of being a byword for something both dead and stupid. Many people view this big-beaked flightless fruit-eater as an unfortunate evolutionary mistake – a creature so fat, so painfully unintelligent, so useless, that it has no option but to die out. Perhaps because it was apparently so unfit for survival, its extinction seems somewhat acceptable to us, maybe even deserving.
Everyone’s favourite naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, returns to our screens tonight with a brand-new one-off documentary. Called Extinction: The Facts (a follow-up to last year’s Climate Change: The Facts), it will look at how human overpopulation, rampant over-consumption, the illegal wildlife trade, climate change, overfishing, pollution and land-use change are all driving the loss of biodiversity across the world.