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Since the total vanishing of the species, the great auk has become an icon of extinction alongside the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and the moa. More than any other extinct bird, the Auk has been prized as a trophy, and all its attributes – from its eggs to the oral history of its demise – were voraciously collected until fairly recently. Its protean appearance in almost every artistic and visual form, from cigarette boxes to bronze and marble statues, has immortalised one of the most tragic man-made extinctions. The Great Auk: The Extinction of the Original Penguin recounts this tale of destruction and reminds us what we, as a species, have done and are still doing to the world around us.
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