Close to Extinction Critically Endangered Animals
While a large number of animals have already gone extinct, many more are on the threshold of extinction due to habitat loss, poaching activities and natural causes. Let’s take a look at 35 species of animals that face imminent threat of disappearance from the face of Earth,
Wildlife continues to bear the brunt of man’s greed as more and more animals are pushed to the verge of extinction by the senseless activities of humans.
Residing on this planet for the past 15 million years, a mere five specimens of the animal are left today from a high of more than 2,000 in 1960. Of the five, only one is a male rhino, who is now under 24X7 armed watch and living along with two other female rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki, Kenya.
With a population of less than 400, the Sumatran tigers are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies; they are found in the patches of forest on the Sumatra Island. Rampant deforestation and poaching have made the tigers’ future look bleak.
One of the rarest marine mammals, vaquitas are often caught and drowned in gillnets used for illegal fishing operations in Mexico’s Gulf of California. They have large dark rings around their eyes and dark patches on their lips. Today, less than 100 specimens of the animal are left behind.
Western lowland gorilla
The most widespread of all gorilla subspecies in the Congo Basin, their numbers have rapidly decreased by as much as 60% in the last 20-25 years due to poaching and disease.
Found in the Russian Far East, Amur leopards are solitary hunters. Nimble-footed and strong, they carry and hide unfinished kills so as not to attract other predators. Habitat degradation due to rampant human activities is threatening their existence. Currently, a mere 60 members of its family survive.
The Javan rhino is dusky grey in color and has a single horn of up to about 10 inches. Their skin has a number of loose folds, giving the appearance of armour plating. Habitat loss and poaching have drastically reduced their numbers over the years. Not more than 35 Javan rhinos are currently roaming on the surface of the planet.
Feeding on a variety of plants and depositing seeds wherever they go, Sumatran elephants contribute to a healthy forest ecosystem. Civil conflicts, hunting and poaching for tusks have reduced their population to a mere 2,400 to 2,800.
Saola was discovered in Vietnam in 1992, after the recovery of a skull with unusually long horns at a hunter’s home. The discovery has been one of the most spectacular zoological discoveries of the 20th century. Hunting, poaching, habitat fragmentation and snares threaten their existence though.
South China tiger
These tigers were hunted in thousands before a ban by the Chinese government in 1979. A group of 30 to 80 tigers were last sighted in 1996, prompting scientists to consider the animal as ‘functionally extinct.’
Cross river gorilla
Very similar in appearance to the more numerous western lowland gorilla (pictured), the small population of cross river gorillas living in the Congo Basin faces an acute problem of habitat loss and poaching—resulting in a severe dip in its population. The Congo Basin is left with not more than 200 to 300 cross river gorillas currently.
They are known for their protective body armour made of scales. Eight species of pangolins are currently found in Asia and Africa, of which, two have been listed as critically endangered. They are being increasingly killed for their flesh and scales.
Found in forests high in the mountains of the Congo basin, mountain gorillas have thicker fur as compared to the other great apes. Ongoing civil conflict, loss of habitat and poaching are threats to their population, which currently stands at a meagre 880.
Yangtze finless porpoise
Known for their mischievous smile and an intelligence level comparable to that of gorillas, human activities and pollution pose serious threats to the remaining 1,000 to 1,800 members of this aquatic marvel.
One of the oldest mammals walking on Earth, black rhinos are virtually living fossils. Once found extensively along the East Coast of Africa, rampant hunting and poaching have made their numbers dwindle over the last few decades. Today, not more than 4,848 rhinos survive.
The Sumatran orangutans are fruit eaters and play a vital role in the dispersal of seeds over a huge area. Once found across the Sumatran island, poaching and illegal pet trade have reduced their population to pockets in the island’s northern part now.
In the last 15 years, only two captive female Sumatran rhinos have given birth. There are three known subspecies: while two of them are found in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, the third is believed to be extinct. Poaching poses the greatest threat to these animals.
The largest sea turtle species are migratory in nature, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Though globally leatherback turtles are listed as vulnerable, certain subspecies are critically endangered due to intense egg collection and fisheries bycatch.
These flightless birds once inhabited the Guam Island in large numbers before the island was invaded by brown tree snakes that led to their predation and subsequent plummeting of their number. Today, they are confined to a captive-breeding facility in Guam and across 14 zoos in the USA. In the last couple of decades, efforts have been made to release small batches of rails in controlled environment to help promote their breeding in the wild.
Boni giant sengi
The giant sengis are found in two coastal habitats on the south-eastern edge of Kenya. While one of the habitats registered a decrease of 30% in their population, the other region showed a marginal increase in the numbers. Fragmentation of habitat poses a major threat to their existence.
Northern bald ibis
A mere 200 to 249 adult specimens of the bird are left confined to certain regions of Morocco and parts of Syria. Though the birds have been marked as critically endangered, they have shown significant increase in their numbers in the last few years.
Mountain pygmy possum
These mammals, found in alpine and subalpine boulderfields and rocky scree in south-eastern Australia, were designated as extinct till 1896. However, the rediscovery of a single living specimen in a ski club lodge on Mount Hotham, Victoria, in 1966, revived the hope of their survival. At present, there are only three known populations, with a total population of less than 2,600. Destruction of their habitat is the major reason for their dwindling numbers.
Northern hairy-nosed wombat
Indigenously Australian, these shy animals had completely disappeared in the early 20th century, after the loss of their only two known habitats in southern Queensland and in New South Wales. Later, in the 1930s, a small population was spotted in Epping Forest National Park in Queensland. According to a 2010 census, 163 wombats are said to have survived after efforts were made to protect its habitat.
The once abundantly found animal witnessed a rapid deterioration in its population in the last few decades due to trophy hunting and poaching, with some regions losing 80% of their herds. In Kenya alone, their population decreased by as much as 85% between 1973 and 1989. Today, though over 300,000 elephants can be found in sub-regions of South Africa, the numbers are not enough to put these giants of animals out of the danger list.
Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog
The deadly chytrid fungus resulted in the extinction of the entire species of the animal, barring one. The loneliest animal in the world is currently residing in the Atlanta Botanical Garden zoo in Georgia, USA.
A concentrated effort by several NGOs and animal conservation organisations has provided a new lease of life to the black-footed ferret, once considered to be extinct in the wild. Currently, there are nearly 1,000 ferrets present across the North American grasslands. Habitat loss and disease are the key threats to their population.
Pygmy three-toed sloth
They are known to be the slowest animals in the world—so slow that algae grows on their back giving them a natural cover from predators. Found only in Isla Escudo de Veraguas, an isolated Panamanian island in the Caribbean, their numbers have dwindled due to destruction of habitat.
Also known as Addax antelope, these animals thrived in the extreme climate of the Sahara desert for thousands of years. However, destruction of habitat and their frenzied hunting by modern weapons have forced its population to the verge of extinction. Currently, not more than 200 specimens of the animal remain in the wild.
This freshwater species is on the verge of extinction due to habitat destruction, hunting and dynamite fishing. Only a handful of these animals survive in the wild presently and aggressive conservation efforts are on to protect them from going extinct.
After its last sighting in 1921, three specimens of pygmy tarsier were rediscovered 85 years later in 2008.
They are commonly found in the eastern Pacific shores from Alaska to Chile. From 1977 to 1984, there was a mammoth increase in the commercial fishing activity of this species in California, USA, alone—dramatically reducing their numbers to a few thousands, so much so that the animal has been designated as extinct in several of their former habitats.
Lord Howe Island stick insect
Commonly referred to as “land lobster,” this nocturnal insect was primarily found in Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. However, in 1918, the introduction of black rats by a ship that had run aground near the island led to the insects’ massive predation and has dwindled their number to not more than 30 specimens at present.
The last surviving subspecies of wild horse, they once freely roamed the steppe along the Mongolia-China border. Subsequent capturing by human beings and interbreeding with domesticated horses made their numbers plummet in the wild. Today, only about 250 of the remaining 1,500 Przewalski’s horses are found in the wild.
Hula painted frog
On November 15, 2011, a park ranger in Israel found one specimen of the Hula painted frog, considered extinct since the 1950s; a few days later, the discovery of a second specimen revived the hopes of its survival. Present in abundance in the 1950s, the population declined due to loss of habitat after draining of the 15,000-acre Lake Hula to make way for agricultural land.
Pinta Island tortoise
In June 2012, the last surviving member of the Pinta Island tortoise community, famously known as Lonesome George, died. However, recent genetic evidence found by researchers around Eucador’s Galápagos Islands have raised hope that at least one specimen of the species could be still alive and breeding.
Endangered Animals , White rhino, Sumatran tiger, Vaquita, Western lowland gorilla, Amur leopard, Javan rhino, Sumatran elephant, Saola, South China tiger, Cross river gorilla, Pangolin, Mountain gorilla, Yangtze finless porpoise, Black rhino, Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino, Leatherback turtle, Guam rail, Boni giant sengi, Northern bald ibis, Mountain pygmy possum, Northern hairy-nosed wombat, African elephants, Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog, Black-footed ferret, Pygmy three-toed sloth, White antelope, Philippine crocodile, Pygmy tarsier, Angel shark, Lord Howe Island stick insect, Przewalski’s horse, Hula painted frog, Pinta Island tortoise