Our world is changing every day. It seems like something new is discovered every day. I was going through my twitter timeline today and saw a headline talking about the discovery of a possible new species of mammoth found in Siberia. Just as new species are discovered each day, some species are also dying out each day. At the beginning of the 21st century, we had the Pyrenean Ibex, before 2005 it was extinct. Same thing happened to the Baiji river dolphin and a lot of other animals we may not know about. Today, everyone knows of the fearsome tiger, the elephant, the gorillas, and the Rhinoceros but do you know that if extreme measures are not put in place, we would be living in a world without tigers, elephants, gorillas, rhinos and so many others that are endangered.
WHEN IS AN ANIMAL ENDANGERED?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which has the most comprehensive list of endangered species around the world set out five standards for classifying an endangered species. The IUCN has these criteria for classifying an endangered species:
- Population Reduction Rate – 50-70% population decline.
- Geographic Range – Extent of Occurrence: <5,000km2
Area of Occupancy: <500km2
- Population Size – <2,500 mature individuals
- Population Restrictions – <250 mature individuals
- Extinction Probability – at least 20% within 20 years or five generations
Popular Endangered Animals
Human activities such as agriculture and mining which leads to problems such as deforestation and pollution are some of the reasons why some species are endangered. Here are seven popular animals that are currently endangered:
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear Panda at least for cartoon lovers like me is “Here are the legends of the kung fu panda” which is the opening theme song for nickelodeon’s show “Kung Fu Panda”. The main character of the show, Po, happens to be a giant panda. While they are super cute the real life giant pandas are peaceful creatures that would not be caught fighting kung fu anytime soon. The giant panda is a bear that lives in temperate forests in the mountains of Southwest China. Unlike other bear species, pandas are vegetarians and spend their days eating around 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo per day which is their major diet. On occasion, they also eat eggs, small animals, carrion, pumpkin, kidney beans and wheat. On a sadder note, pandas are endangered and there are estimated to be fewer than 2,500 individuals living in the wild. Poaching, hunting and habitat loss due to urbanization are the causes of their endangered status. Thankfully, the Chinese government introduced strict habitat protection and anti-poaching laws in the 1980s to protect pandas.
Gorillas are a species native to the African continent. They are our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. Gorillas have been known to display human-like behaviors and show emotions such as sadness and happiness. They even share 98.3% of our human DNA. I remember reading an article on gorillas written by scientists who had sent an animatronics gorilla to spy on other gorillas so their lifestyle could be studied. Well they discovered that gorillas like to sing while eating and they also fart a lot. There are two species of gorilla (Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei) and four subspecies all of which are endangered in the wild. There are just between 100,000 to 200,000 of all gorilla species in the wild. Habitat loss due to deforestation, hunting for meat and trophies, diseases such as Ebola and a low reproductive rate are responsible for the decline in the population of the gorillas.
The tiger is the largest member of the cat family and also the most endangered. They can be found in Russia, North Korea, China, India, Southeast Asia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are only about 3900 individuals in the wild. At the beginning of the 20th century, the tiger population was estimated to be about 100,000 but by the end of the century, only about 5,000 to 7,500 were left due to excessive hunting for trophies, and their skin. It was also believed that tiger parts possessed healing abilities. Habitat loss and climate change are also responsible for the reduced population.
Orangutan means “person of the forest” in Malay language. They are a species of Asian great apes found in rainforests on the Southeast Asian island of Sumatra and Borneo. There are three species of orangutans and all three are endangered. The Bornean orangutan has a population of 104,700 (Endangered), the Sumatran orangutan a population of 7500(Critically Endangered) and the third species which was announced in 2017, the Tapanuli Orangutan with an estimated population of 800 individuals is the most endangered of all great ape species. Deforestation and habitat loss, hunting and illegal wildlife trade are threats to these endangered species.
5. Asian Elephants
Most times people associate elephants with Africa but Africa is not the only continent home to elephants. There are elephants in Asia and they are endangered. Asian elephants once thought to have numbered about 200,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, are now reduced to a population of about 40,000. There are three subspecies of Asian elephants – the Indian, the Sumatran, and the Sri Lankan. Majority of the remaining Asian elephants reside in India. Habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and human wildlife conflict are threats to the Asian elephants. Although their African counterparts are not endangered, they are on the IUCN list of vulnerable species.
6. Blue Whale
The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet. They grow to 80-100 feet long and can weigh up to 200 tons which is approximately the size of 33 elephants! They are also one of the loudest animals in the world. Their calls reach 188 decibels and blue whales can hear each other up to 1000 miles away. They are also mammals and the baby whales stay in their mother’s womb for close to a year. Aggressive whaling in the 1900s pushed the blue whales to the brink of extinction. It is estimated that between 1900 and mid 1960s, 360,000 blue whales were killed. Today there are only about 25,000 individuals left. Although whaling was banned in 1966 the blue whale still faces threats such as pollution, collisions with ships and getting ensnared in fishing gear.
There are only five rhino species surviving today – Black, White, Indian, Javan and Sumatran. Two of the species- the Javan and the Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered. There are only about 72 Javan rhinos left and less than 100 Sumatran rhinos. Poaching is the major threat to the rhino’s survival. The demand for rhino horns keeps increasing despite the ban on international trade in rhino horns. Habitat loss is also another reason for the decreasing rhino population.
Videos on Endangered Animals
10 Endangered Animals that May Soon be Extinct
Rarest animal in the world (documentary)
What can we do to save these animals
We published an article on Wildlife Conservation and Threats to Wildlife It will give you an idea of the threats to wildlife and the consequences for us, and additionally, the efforts that have been, and are eing made to conserve wildlife.
You will find more interesting details in this short video below.