Gone But Not Forgotten: Extinct and Endangered Animals on Banknotes

An overview of some extinct and endangered animals featured on various countries' banknotes.

A cursory look at banknotes from around the world will reveal that animals are a popular subject to represent a country’s ecosystem and wildlife. However, it might not be obvious to some that a number of these animals are actually endangered or extinct.

The Government of Mauritius, Five Rupees Note, reverse

Bank of Mauritius, Five hundred Rupees Note, obverse

One of the most famous extinct animals is the dodo bird, whose last known sighting was around 1662. While poaching claimed the species, its island homeland of Mauritius has paid tribute to the bird on a variety of products, including its currency. Several older banknotes featured the bird on the flanking of the island’s coat of arms. Newer polymer notes subtly place the dodo as the watermark, with the newest issued notes displaying the bird as part of the note’s security window.

New Zealand, Ten Dollar Note, reverse

While the dodo bird is the only extinct animal to appear on a banknote, there are many endangered animals that have made appearances on currency. In New Zealand, the whio, or blue ducks, appear on the reverse of the 10 dollar note, which were in circulation from 1999 to 2013. The ducks primarily live in mountainous regions of New Zealand, but their endangered status appears to be short-lived, as efforts have been made to protect the ducks from extinction.

Central Bank of Congo, 500 Francs Note, reverse

Central Bank of Congo, Fifty Cent Note, obverse

Central Bank of Congo, Fifty Cent Note, obverse

The Democratic Republic of Congo has featured the okapi on banknotes as far back as 1955, and as recently as 1997. This mammal is related to the giraffe, while having zebra-like stripes on its legs. In 2013, the okapi was added to the Red List, which is a list compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. While the okapi is listed as “threatened,” (or the middle position on the extinction scale) scientists have noted the okapi’s reappearance in Virunga National Park after a nearly five decade absence. This indicates a possible comeback despite the Congo’s long civil war, which has destroyed the okapi’s habitat, and has subjected the species to poaching.

Fiji, Five Dollar Note, obverse

Fiji, Twenty Dollar Note, obverse

Fiji announced that their 2013 issue banknotes would drop Queen Elizabeth II, who had appeared on the notes since 1957. Instead, native flora and fauna would be featured, such as the Kulawai, or red-throated Lorikeet, a bird whose last known sighting was in 1993, and is thought to be extinct. Also rare, is the bird on the 20 dollar note, the Kacau ni Gau, which is believed to have no more than 50 surviving pairs.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, one Pound Note, obverse

If these endangered animals were to finally die out, they need not worry about fading into obscurity, if the unicorn is any indication. The mythical creature has appeared on Scottish banknotes over the years, and proves that even an imaginary animal can live on through the ages.

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