Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust
The historic heart of Stanley
The warrah was the Falklands only native land mammal and for centuries there has been speculation as to how it reached the Islands. Theories included the animals might have arrived on an iceberg or that they might have come to the Islands with humans, perhaps as hunting dogs travelling on canoes with Fuegian Indians. Another suggested that a fleet of Chinese ocean-going junks had visited the Falklands and that the warrah was a descendent of dogs from these ships. Only recently DNA studies published in 2009 showed it was unlikely for the wolf to have arrived in the Falklands through human agency, and the authors conclude that they arrived from the continent to the Falkland Islands either through rafting on drifting ice or dispersal over glacial ice during the late Pleistocene period.
During his time in the Islands a young Charles Darwin developed an interest in the curious animal, even predicting its extinction in his “Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle” : “The number of these animals during the past fifty years must have been greatly reduced… and it cannot, I think, be doubted, that as these islands are now being colonized, before the paper is decayed on which this animal has been figured, it will be ranked among those species which have perished from the earth.”
As sheep farming became more established in the Islands, and some believed the warrah had “developed a taste for mutton” – disputed by others – a poisoning campaign was undertaken and many were destroyed. By 1870 they were reported almost exterminated with the last one said to have been killed in 1876 at Shallow Bay, West Falkland Islands.
The radiocarbon determination shows that the warrah has been in the Falkland Islands long before first the recorded discovery and settlement by humans.