Pollution, poaching and destruction of unique habitats some of the main culprits causing the endangerment and extinction of species. Here are some of the most endangered animals and th ereasons as to why these species are on the brink of extinction.
Listed as critically endangered, the Pangolin are the only known mammals to have large keratin scales around their body. The size of these nocturnal animals ranges from 30cm to 100cm and their weight ranges from 1.6kg to 33kg. There are eight species of Pangolin and are distributed across two continents, Africa and Asia.
Pangolins are facing a serious dwindle in numbers as a result of being hunted for their meat and armor. They are known to be the most traded mammal in the world today. Their meat is considered a delicacy in some South east Asian countries, China and Vietnam. Human development has also taken a toll on their numbers where deforestation has caused a loss of their natural habitat.
Vaquita, facing threats of extinction, are a rare species of marine mammal. As of 2014, the estimated population was said to be below 100. Vaquita are the smallest species of the cetacean order and are found in the Northern end of the Gulf of California. Dark rings surrounding the eyes, patches on lips, and a line that stretches from their dorsal fins to their mouths are the most striking features of a Vaquita. Females are larger than the males and can grow up to about 140.6cm whereas the males measure around 134.9cm.
Vaquitas are on the brink of extinction and are classified as critically endangered. The main threats include being caught in large scale fishing gear and getting trapped in gill nets that are meant for sharks, mackerels, totoaba and chano. Another main threat is caused by commercial shrimp trawlers and each year around 30 Vaquita are found to be lost in this manner.
8. Borneo Pygmy Elephant
The Borneo Elephant, or the Borneo Pygmy elephant, is native to northeastern Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia. The population of the elephants have been facing a serious decline in number by at least 50% for the past 60-75 years. The pygmy elephants are characterized by their oversized ears, bellies, long tails and gentle nature.
The Borneo Pygmy Elephants are preeminently facing a threat due to the loss of habitats, degradation and fragmentation which is the result of human development. Human development has also caused a significant negative effect on their food sources and migration routes.
7. Leatherback Sea Turtle
The leatherback sea turtle, also known as the lute turtle or leathery turtle, is the largest of turtles and is in fourth place in the heaviest modern reptile list. The turtle has a cosmopolitan global range with a wide distribution and are said to be the most migratory. The leatherback sea turtle can be differentiated from other turtles by its absence of a bony shell – hence the reason for its name.
The sea turtle’s population took a serious downturn during the last century mainly due to egg collection and fisheries bycatch. Although, the IUCN has listed the leatherback sea turtle as vulnerable, many sub populations of the sea turtle are listed as critically endangered.
6. Cross River Gorilla
The Cross River Gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla and is found in mountain rain forests between 1,500m and 3,500m and in bamboo forests between 2,500m to 3,000m. The population of cross river gorillas has reportedly declined by 59% from 1995-2010 leaving about 300 individuals living today.
Human influences that contributed to their endangerment include deforestation for agriculture, cattle grazing and timber. Other factors include illegal hunting, illegal logging operations and the loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding.
5. Amur Leopard
The Amur Leopard, also known as the Far Eastern Leopard, is a sub species of leopard and is native to Primorye region of Russia and the Jilin Province of China. The IUCN has declared this large cat as critically endangered since 1996. Around 70 Amur Leopards live in the wild today, according to recent data.
Amur Leopards have a thick coat of fur that is soft and spot covered. They have long limbs that allow them to walk through deep snow easily. The male measures from 42 to 54 inches and weighs around 71-106 pounds. Human influences on the declining numbers include poaching, deforestation, human induced fires for livestock grazing and development.
4. Javan Rhinoceros
Javan Rhinoceros, also known as the Sunda rhinoceros, are the most endangered species of the five rhino species. Even the most assuring reports suggest only about 100 rhinos are still living in the wild. The rhino is only known to survive in one place known as the Ujung Kulon National Park in Java.
The Javan rhino is grey in color with their skin having loose folds. The males have a single horn of about 10 inches long which they use to pull down plants to eat and search for food by making a pathway through thick vegetation.
The low numbers of the Javan rhinos are ascribed to poaching and loss of habitat. Javan rhinos are poached for their horns which are used in traditional Chinese medicine and can be priced for US $30,000 per kg on the black market. Loss of habitat due to development remains another large factor.
Baiji are found in the Yangtze River in China and are a rare species of freshwater dolphin. The Baiji is an agile animal with a flexible neck and a long narrow beak that has a bluish grey coloring. It measures about 2.5m in length and weighs around 135-230 kg. After many surveys it has been determined that the Baiji may be the first dolphin species to be driven to extinction.
The decline of its numbers was attributed to industrialization of China in which the river is utilized for fishing, transportation and hydroelectricity. The Baijis were also pursued for their meat, leather and oil. Human development, which has been expeditious along the river, contributed to the decline of this river dolphin’s abundance.
Additionally, the Yangtze river is used as a mode of transport where thousands of transport vessels are traveling in river at any given time. The river is also reported to be contaminated with oil, sewage and plastics.
2. Siberian Tiger
The Siberian tiger or the Amur tiger is a tiger subspecies that lives in the Sikhote Alin mountain region in the Russian Far East and is considered critically endangered. In 2015, the estimated wild population of this animal was around 480-540. Amur tigers are the largest of the tiger species that can grow up to 13 feet in length and weigh up to 700 pounds.
The prime threats to this tiger’s survival is their habitat loss due to development as well as illegal poaching in the wild. These tigers are usually poached for their fur and body parts that are said to be popular in traditional Chinese medicine.
1. Giant Panda
The Giant Panda is one the the world’s most cherished animals. Unfortunately, it is also an endangered species in the world today. Only about 1000-2000 are reported living in the wild. Many projects and programs are under way in order to restore the population of pandas in the mountain forests of southwest China which is their native habitat.
These animals are distinguished by their characteristic black and white color where the eyes, ears, muzzle, shoulders and legs are black while the rest of body is white. The Giant Pandas reproduce infrequently which also has an adverse effect on conservation programs.
The main reasons why the Giant Panda is endangered is due to habitat destruction as well as their slow population growth. As development in China continues to grow, their habitats get destroyed pushing the pandas further away into smaller areas. Due to development, there are food shortages which increases the risk of starvation.
There are many critically endangered animals in the world today. We should all be away of these animals as well as humanity’s effect on their habitats and food sources.