Quaggas and Diamonds: The Possible Relationship Between Diamond Mining and Species Extinction

The world’s last living Quagga (Equus Quagga Quagga) died in the stables under the library of Amsterdam Artis Zoo on the 12th of August 1883. Her remains were prepared by a taxidermist and put on display in the Zoo and later in the Natural History Museum in Leiden. After many years on display her now rather tatty remains have recently been placed in the depot of Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the successor museum in Leiden.

Equus Quagga Quagga was literally shot out of existence as a species in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the last attested reports of Quagga in the wild dated to 1878, in what is today the Free State province of South Africa. The story of the quagga is fairly well known, but the connection of its demise and final extermination in relation to the rise of diamond mining in South Africa after 1865 has not been explored; yet the growth of the one appears to be closely related to the passing of the other, Jan-Bart Gewald writes in this ASCL Working Paper.

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This is ASCL Working Paper 156/2024. See all ASCL Working Papers.

Photo: Postcard of the stuffed remains of the last Quagga to die in captivity.
Source: https://www.amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief/stukken/archiefvondsten/allerlaats...

Author(s) / editor(s)

Jan-Bart Gewald

About the author(s) / editor(s)

Jan-Bart Gewald is a socio-cultural historian of southern Africa and Professor of African History at Leiden University.