Endangered Animals Around the World
As the number of species facing extinction has risen to an estimated 40% of all the known organisms, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared that our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis. Species are disappearing at an alarming rate of up to 1,000 times faster than what would be natural. Human behavior is the primary cause for these losses. Animals are losing habitat to agricultural and urban development and are often threatened by the pollution and invasive species brought by man. Poaching and killing animals in unsustainable numbers have already left some species unable to survive. The web of life on this planet is a fragile one and all species and ecosystems are interconnected. Studies have shown that reduced biodiversity increases the risk that diseases will jump from animals to people. In areas where biodiversity has dropped there have been an increase in infectious diseases like Lyme disease, SARS, and West Nile Virus. The destruction of even one species, is not good for any species.
While New Zealand has the highest percentage of endangered birds in the world, they are not the only country to suffer a sharp decline in their native bird populations. It has been estimated that at least 12% of the world’s bird species are now listed as endangered. In a few cases, predators or disease have helped bring these birds so close to extinction, but man is usually the main culprit. The exotic pet bird trade has been primarily responsible for the slow disappearances of some of the world’s most beautiful birds.
- Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Once thought extinct, a few rare sightings of this bird have been reported.
- Mexican Spotted Owl: Loss of habitat and the encroachment of other owl species have left the Spotted Owl on endangered species lists.
- Bali Starling: The illegal caged bird trade has left this beautiful bird with numbers so low that scientists worry about its ability to recover.
- Gorgeted Puffleg: This little humming bird was discovered as a new species in 2005, yet is already threatened with extinction due to the clearing of its Colombian habitat for coca fields.
- Sidamo Lark: If the loss of habitat doesn't stop, this lark become extinct in the next few years.
- Kakapo Parrot: This large and flightless parrot is native to New Zealand where serious conservation attempts are being made to save it from extinction.
- Cuckoo: The British cuckoo, noted for its unique call, was recently added to a growing list of endangered British birds.
Some species are already on the verge of extinction when the first specimens are discovered. Habitat loss and poaching have already wiped out several mammal species within this century. In many cases, the damage done to these species has been unintentional. Invasive species like feral dogs and cats become predators to species that originally had none, and the pollution produced by man creates unlivable conditions.
- Sumatran Tiger: Conservation efforts are ongoing to save the remaining wild population of these tigers.
- Mountain Gorilla: Loss of habitat continues to be a serious threat to the survival of mountain gorillas.
- Tasmanian Devil: A rapidly moving disease has reduced the population enough to put these marsupials on the endangered list.
- Bonobo: This close relative of humans and chimps is on the verge of extinction.
- Indian Elephant: With fewer than 600 elephants left in the wild, these animals are under serious threat.
- Black-Footed Ferret: The only ferret native to North America is also one of its most endangered mammals.
- Aye-Aye: Despite Madagascar’s laws to protect lemurs, the aye-aye is on the brink of extinction.
- Golden Lion Tamarin: Poachers, predators, and loss of habitat have greatly reduced the chances of survival for these once common tamarins.
- Mediterranean Monk Seals: Like the Hawaiian monk seal, pollution and predators have left the Mediterranean monk seal extremely endangered.
- Malayan Sun Bear: The smallest member of the bear family is also one of the most endangered.
- Chimpanzees: The endangered status of chimpanzees often seems to be forgotten, but poachers continue reduced their numbers.
- Red Slender Loris: Deforestation has left this small mammal endangered in its native Sri Lanka.
Pollution and over-fishing have left the world’s oceans and rivers devoid of many previously abundant fish species. Sport fishing and industrial fishing with nets that injure wild life have also reduced the numbers of some of the world’s largest fish. Due to fear and misinformation, many shark species are now on the endangered species lists. Fish are in a fragile food chain that includes man. If that chain is damaged or destroyed, humans will also feel the effects of it.
- Bangaii Cardinal Fish: The ornamental fish trade has diminished the numbers of this rare fish.
- Blue Fin Tuna: Long considered a delicacy in many cuisines, over-fishing has led to concern about the tuna’s possible extinction.
- Chinese Paddlefish: Most scientists believe that there are still some Chinese Paddlefish alive in the wild, but they face imminent extinction.
- Chinook Salmon: Alaska has been taking steps to conserve this species of fish.
- Steelhead Trout: Despite its widespread distribution, the steelhead trout’s numbers have continued a steady decline since the 1970s.
- Great White Shark: While many shark species are on the brink of extinction, scientists believe that the great white shark is now more endangered than the tiger.
- Blobfish: This unusual fish is seldom seen by humans, but deep sea fishing near Australia and New Zealand has put the blobfish in jeopardy.
Other Wildlife and Rainforest Resources
Conservation of the world’s animals and their biomes is critical to the survival of our species and our planet. Many organizations and governments are addressing the issues facing wildlife and the environment. Governments are working together to put into place international and local laws that will protect animals, but the issues of enforcement are an ongoing concern. Learning about these animals, their habitats and the efforts to protect them is the first step in understanding how we can save them from extinction.
- Rainforest Animals: Information about some of the animals found in a rainforest.
- Animal Biodiversity Web: The University of Michigan has been developing this educational site on the world’s wildlife.
- Mongabay: In addition to raising awareness about rainforest conservation, Mongabay.com provides information about rainforests around the world and the animals that live in them.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature: This well-respected international addresses issues in environment and sustainable development, as well as keeps track of the world’s endangered species.
- Center for Great Apes: An organization for the conservation of great apes, particularly chimpanzees and orangutans.
- National Audubon Society: This group works to conserve wildlife and protect the environment.
- National Geographic: National Geographic takes a closer look at the world’s wildlife.
- Wildlife Conservation Society: The society works to save animals and their habitats around the world.
- National Wildlife Federation: This is one of the largest conservation groups in the USA.
- World Wildlife Fund: Since 1961, this group has worked to fund conservation efforts to save endangered species.