Though we’re officially in the the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, some scientists say we’re actually living in an age they call the Anthropocene. As Smithsonian magazine put it: “They argue for ‘Anthropocene’ — from anthropo, for ‘man,’ and cene, for ‘new’ — because humankind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.”
Sure, homo sapiens isn’t perfect. Sure, some say we’ve killed off half the world’s animals since 1970, and species are going extinct 1,000 times faster because humans are hanging around wreaking havoc. But if a day of reckoning ever comes, there’s one critter we can say we didn’t entirely dispose of: Jerdon’s babbler (Chrysomma altirostre). The small brown bird, last seen in 1941, was recently rediscovered in Myanmar.
Now, there’s nothing all that special about the Jerdon’s babbler. It’s just about six inches tall. It lacks the majesty of the bald eagle and the literary baggage of the albatross. It has no magic powers, and is not the harbinger of anything.
But, despite humanity’s best efforts, the babbler survives, flitting about Myanmar’s grasslands – an environment that faces an uncertain future because of human encroachment.
“The degradation of these vast grasslands had led many to consider this subspecies of Jerdon’s Babbler extinct,” Colin Poole, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s regional conservation hub in Singapore, said in a statement. “This discovery not only proves that the species still exists in Myanmar but that the habitat can still be found as well.”
First discovered in the 1860s, the babbler had not been seen in decades, and was located last year using a dirty acoustical trick. Upon hearing the subspecies’ distinctive song, scientists recorded it and played the recording back – and, lo and behold, a real live specimen of an animal missing since World War II came to check out what was up.
Researchers, who found a number of other specimens and were able to take blood samples, will now study the rediscovered animals to determine how they differ from other birds in the area – and how they are faring. After all, where’s there’s life, there’s hope.
Finding several birds is a “very good sign,” Richard Thomas, a council member of the Oriental Bird Club, told National Geographic. “”It suggests they’re … okay, and the habitat is still there.”