Remembrance Day for Lost Species, November 30th
Islands and Seas: 2016 call for participants
Three species are lost to eternity every hour. November 30th is a chance to learn and tell their stories, and to renew commitments to those remaining. Participate in Remembrance Day for Lost Species by holding – or joining – any kind of memorial to lost species or places. This could take the form of an art project, a procession, lighting a candle, planting a tree, or any kind of action you like. (See below for examples of past events.)
At a time of heightened awareness of the dangers of fragmentation and isolation politically and ecologically, the focus of RDLS 2016 will be on two particular extinction stories that relate to the theme of islands and seas:
1. The 80th anniversary of the extinction of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger) on September 7th 1936. This was a top predator, wiped out by hunting and habitat destruction in the twentieth century. The thylacine’s story is largely forgotten, along with the stories of indigenous Tasmanian people. Tasmania is an island close to Australia. Island species are vulnerable because they cannot escape from introduced threats.
2. May 2016 saw the announcement of the extinction, due to sea level rise, of the Bramble Cay melomys – a small rat-like creature which lived on a low-lying coral cay on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is the first mammal to officially disappear forever due to anthropogenic climate change and the harbinger of many more to follow. The situation for the Great Barrier Reef is increasingly grave as ocean temperatures rise and acidify.
The lead-up to RDLS 2016 will begin on September 7th, the anniversary of the thylacine’s extinction. If you would like to organise an event this autumn, please email persephone @onca.org.uk and we will add it to the online map of events for Remembrance Day for Lost Species 2016.
See also our call for artistic responses here.
Remembrance Day for Lost Species is driven by a growing coalition of artists, educators, celebrants and writers. It is also supported by the MEMO project and Extinction Symbol. In 2014, WWF-UK reported in its Living Planet report that Earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years. However, worse is to come as climate change and habitat loss are leading us into the Sixth Mass Extinction. Now is the time to create new rituals for remembering and mourning what we have lost, and for celebrating and making commitments to what remains.
Since 2011, groups in the UK and internationally have met on the last day of November to hold memorials for extinct species. There have been several ceremonies for the Great Auk (d.1852), including a burial at sea and funeral pyres in coastal Wales and Scotland. In Belgium, families lit candles for disappeared indigenous butterflies. In Brighton, paper flags inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead were waved in a procession for the Caribbean Monk Seal (d.1952). In 2014 there were a number of centenary memorials to the Passenger Pigeon (d.1914).
In 2015, ONCA marked Remembrance Day for Lost Species with the casting of a Bell for Lost Species, made at ONCA by Bristol-based mobile foundry/ performance collective Ore and Ingot. You can read a blog post about the event by storyteller Nick Hunt. In the lead-up to the event, local schoolchildren were invited to enter a competition to design the logo to be embossed on the Bell for Lost Species. The winning entry was this extinct flightless island rail by Jared Masters aged 7, whose design is etched into the bronze bell, along with the extinction symbol.
The Bell was tolled for the first time outside ONCA on November 30th. As Nick Hunt explains: “It was tolled 108 times – a sacred number in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious traditions – while a small audience listened in the rain. The reverberations hung in the air like the names of the species spoken aloud – and then, like the species themselves, they faded into nothing.”
Follow us at
The extinction symbol: the circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species.
Notes about some other RDLS coalition members
- The Life Cairn: An international group that builds stone cairns as a focus for memorials to extinct species, established in UK by Andreas Kornevall, Peter Owen-Jones and Vanessa Vine
- Feral Theatre: A theatre company that explores loss, death and memory through performance often in outdoor spaces
- Bridget McKenzie leads Flow UK, a cultural learning consultancy based in London
- Nick Hunt is editor of the Dark Mountain blog, and author of Walking the Woods and the Water
- Joel Greenberg is author of ‘A Feathered River Across the Sky’, one of the leaders of Project Passenger Pigeon and co-producer of “From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeons Flight to Extinction.”
- Megan Hollingsworth is a US-based poet and founder of Extinction Witness
- Sebastian Brooke founded the MEMO Project – an iconic architectural project on the cliffs of the Isle of Portland, to build a permanent memorial to extinct species overlooking the ‘Jurassic Coast’ World Heritage Site
- Extinction Symbol
- Poet Susan Richardson is co-editor of Zoomorphic magazine.