RIP Martha…

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the loss of a species. A species once so abundant, they darkened the skies as flocks passed overhead during migration. Estimates once placed the total population at 3 to 5 billion. Billion.

Over hunting decimated the species in a few decades, until one remained – ‘Martha’ – named after First Lady Martha Washington. Martha, the last remaining Passenger pigeon, lived out the remainder of her life at the Cincinnati Zoo. She died at 1pm on September 1st, 1914.

Project Passenger Pigeon is marking the anniversary with a number of initiatives, including the release of a documentary “From Billions to None,” speaking engagements, social media campaigns and the release of a new book about Passenger pigeons. Their goal is to strengthen the relationship between humans and our natural world and encourage sustainable use of natural resources. 

If you are planning to attend our Whooping Crane Festival dinner on Friday, September 12th, our keynote speaker will be Stanley A. Temple, who participated in the making of the documentary From Billions to None. 

For 32 years Stan occupied the faculty position once held by Aldo Leopold and while in that position earned every teaching award for which he was eligible. He and his students have worked on endangered species problems in 21 different countries, and have helped save some of the world’s rarest and most endangered species, especially birds. Stan has received recognition for his work in conservation from numerous organizations, and has authored over 330 publications. He has long been interested in passenger pigeons, having analyzed historical records of the species that were first assembled by A. W. Schorger for his 1955 book on the life history and ecology of the species. 

Stan’s presentation explores the ecology and life history of the passenger pigeon and other extinct and endangered birds, current extinction crises, endangered species recovery, human relationship with wildlife, and sustainable use of biological resources.

I’m looking forward to his presentation. If you’d like to attend, be sure to pre-register.

Here are some additional new stories about the Passenger pigeon: New York Times | Birdwatching Daily |  Wall Street Journal

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  1. cgull September 9, 2014 4:08 pm

    It is scary to think of the shortsightedness of people that they would willingly wipe out this species among others. This shows the diligence and efforts of all of our conservation, environmental and scientific groups must never waver in their quest to protect all of our nature’s species against those that won’t.

  2. Mark Chenoweth September 1, 2014 12:12 pm

    Martha is still with us… her remains are stored at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, but her memory and the loss of this species… how it changed our environment, is with all of us who care. Conservation efforts came too late for the Passenger Pigeon, but their legacy lives on in the work that saved the American Bald Eagle, California Condor, Peregrine Falcon and… the Whooping crane! But such work is far from completion. Operation Migration bears major testament to this legacy and represents, in no small way, this hope and our modern efforts.

    Martha has been gone a century as of today, but her memory lives in the work of the International Crane Foundation and Operation Migration. Seeing a Whooping crane makes me think of her, knowing in our lifetime, and hopefully for many generations, our consciousness of the environment and importance of the work to preserve these creatures lives on, to share these birds with those yet unborn. May such dedication and work inspire others to carry their efforts into the future, insuring the legacy of Martha and her kind!