World Environment Day

Today, June 5th is World Environment Day.  This annual event organised by the United Nations aims to raise awareness of the environment and specific issues caused by human activity that are threatening our planet’s ecosystems and habitats.  This day, sometimes referred to as “World Eco Day”, was established in principle in 1972 and the first commemorative events took place two years later.

A Collection of Preserved Eggs at the Grant Museum of Zoology (London)

Various bird eggs including a Great Auk egg.

Bird eggs, (left to right) emu, rhea, ostrich and very poignantly the egg of a Great Auk.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The photograph (above), was taken by an Everything Dinosaur team member on a visit to the Grant Museum of Zoology in London.  The display case shows examples of large eggs from birds, the white egg with dark marbling on the far right of the picture is an egg from a Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis).  We have posted this up as on June 3rd 1844, the last two confirmed specimens of this once widespread, flightless bird were killed on the remote island of Eldey, off the Icelandic coast.   Eldey had been a breeding colony for these magnificent creatures.  The death of these two birds ended the last known attempt at breeding.  Over the next few years, there were claims of sightings, but none of these could be verified and confirmed.

So, it seems fitting that today, World Environment Day, we remember the now extinct Great Auk, a bird once treasured and honoured by many ancient maritime cultures that bordered the Atlantic.  Within a hundred years or so after being scientifically described, this bird, that once ranged from the Arctic to the shores of the Iberian Peninsula was dead and gone forever.