That was the very last pair (I)
"The Great Auk, Pinguinus impennis, is one of the most powerful symbols of the damage humans can cause. The species was driven extinct as a result of centuries of intense human exploitation," and for Gracia and my part of a forthcoming group exhibition at Counihan Gallery, I've drawn the (imagined) portraits of the last pair and their fated egg.
Great Auks have always appealed to humans. A 4,000-year-old burial site in Newfoundland contained 200 Great Auk beaks, thought to have been attached to ceremonial clothes.
In the early 1800s, the rarer the birds became, the more desirable they seemed. Demand from museums and collectors dealt the final blow.
Agile and streamlined in water, great auks moved clumsily on land, only coming ashore to breed. They could only waddle awkwardly at human walking pace. In 1844 a final unfortunate pair fled in vain from hunters, their single egg smashed.
By the mid-1850s the species was extinct.
(Quotation from Natural History Museum, UK.)