Holding the bones of an animal you know you will never see alive is a horrible experience. Everyone else in my class passed the leg-bone of the Aurochs (Bos Primogenis) around the room, commenting on its weight and size, but not many of us knew what an Aurochs was, and even less cared.
The bone itself was huge, although I was obsessed with these very bovines for years this was the first time I had seen part of one so close up (apart from the aurochs horn drinking cups in Castle Drogo.. always worth a look). It so happened that I was the last in the class to see it, so it stayed on the bench next to me for the rest of the lecture. I confess, that although this was the lecture I had been looking forward to (the only one where I thought I might be up to the general standard!) I spent a lot of time looking at the piece of bone, touching it and thinking. There was anger and sadness as well as excitement that I had got to examine such an object.
We also looked at mammoth ivory, and baleen from the Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) thankfully the Right Whale escaped the fate of the other two animals, but only just, and would as few of my classmates have heard of it then? What if all whales had been driven to extinction in 1627 along with the last Aurochs? Would only 10% of people know or care that these marvellous mammals had EVER existed?
I hope that in 50 years time, students studying what I study now aren’t holding the bones of the Sumatran Rhino and wondering how its extinction could have been allowed to happen without even a ripple of protest.