Due to poachers and climate change, the next generation may never get to see a polar bear ruling the Arctic circle, or an elephant roaming the African savannah. We will only be able to tell them about these magnificent animals.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon called Martha, who died in captivity after her whole species was wiped of the face of the earth. Also late last year, a 44-year old northern white rhinoceros died in captivity at the San Diego Zoo, leaving just four rhinos worldwide, one male who will die soon, and three females. They may also be gone with the wind soon.
Many spices die out everyday and we don't even know it. Experts say this is the 6th mass extinction in Earth's history, 30 to 50% of the world's species are going towards extinction by the mid century, and we are solely to blame.
Poaching, habitat loss and climate change all contribute to entire species dying out. Here are 15 animals that may say goodbye soon, that is...if we can't save them first.
1. Amur Leopard
You may have not known this, but these beautiful big cats are critically endangered. They are the rarest big cats in the world now. Native to Far East Russia and Northern China, their numbers have dwindled due to being sought after for their magnificent spotted coats, and also because they threaten local Asian villages and livestock, so they are killed. They also face habit destruction and the loss of prey animals due to the expanding population. Today, only 30 individuals remain in the wild. However, new census data reveals Amur leopards in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park now number at least 57 cats (up from just 30 cats in 2007). And an additional 8-12 leopards were counted in adjacent areas of China. There may be hope for them, but they have a long way to go.
2. Javan Rhinoceros
Even though all the subspecies of rhinoceros are endangered, this is one of the rarest. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were hunted a lot for their horns, which were used to make Asian medicines and potions. Once, these creatures ruled Indonesia, but today their numbers have declined greatly due to poachers killing them for their horns. Today only 35 individuals remain in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia, and could soon go in the way of the dodo due to disease, natural disasters and low genetic diversity.
3. Leatherback Sea Turtle
The largest sea turtle in the world, the Leatherback's numbers have declined significantly due to over fishing, egg poaching, habitat loss and human expansion to coastal regions. This continues to disturb their nesting processes. Today, an estimated 34,000 to 36,000 female turtles remain in the wild. That may seem like a lot, but in the 1980s, and estimated 116,000 female turtles existed in the wild.
3. Saiga Antelope
These unique creatures are critically endangered. They used to roam the Eurasian steppe, but due to loss of habitat and excessive hunting, their numbers have declined significantly. Today, only 10,000 to 15,000 remain. Also, they have been dying out rather fast recently due to unknown causes.
4. Northern White Rhinoceros
Then again, all subspecies of rhino are endangered. This species of rhino will die out soon, and they are rarer than the Javan rhinoceros. During colonial times they were hunted for the horn that rests on their snout. Today, due to poaching in Africa, they were driven very close to extinction. None exist in the wild. Only one male called Angalifu is on the planet, and he is protected by body gauds so that he won't be poached. The 3 females were transported from the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic (which are also the only reproductive animals of this subspecies) were transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Africa. Also, one female died in the San Diego Zoo in 2014. Only 5 are left on the planet. Their lives are on the line more than ever.
These small, strange salamanders reside in North American lakes. Since, 2010, they have a spot on the endangered species list, and a recent 2013 study was unable to uncover any in the wild. Even though none were discovered, an estimated 700 to 1,200 axolotls exist in six reduced and scattered areas within the Xochimilco area of the Mexican Central Valley. They do, however, exist in captivity. Loss of habitat and pollution were the most likely cause of their extinction in the wild.
6. Polar Bear
Yes, unfortunately the big, fluffy bears have a spot on the endangered species list. Global warming , over fishing and climate change has melted the polar ice caps that they reside on. Due to this, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 remain in the wild. But, this number may be inaccurate because much of the Arctic hasn't been discovered yet. Efforts have been made to preserve the population.
7. Slender Loris
A slender what? These little guys are some of the rarest creatures that exist on the planet today. Since 1937, they have only been spotted four times, and were thought to be extinct. Today they rarely occur in Sri Lanka, but they are killed due to the belief that their body parts can cure leprosy and provide protection from curses. An estimated 100 to 1,500 are left in the wild.
8. Sumatran Elephant
The smallest of the Asian elephants, the Sumatran elephant is threatened due to illegal logging, and their habitats being loss due to palm oil plantations. The human-elephant conflict has also been a big issue, and due to all these factors, their numbers have dwindled by an astonishing 80%. Only 2,400 to 2,800 individual Sumatran elephants remain.
The male elephants grow small tusks, but they are still poached for them and they are sold to the illegal ivory trade market. This skewed the male-to-female ratio, thus making future breeding of them difficult.
9. Mountain Gorilla
Mountain gorillas dwell in the Virunga Mountains that border Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Poaching, loss of habitat, charcoal production, and the deadly Ebola virus has killed more than 90% of the wild ape population. Today, only about an estimated 880 mountain gorillas are left.
Known as the world's rarest marine animal, the vaquita is on the brink of extinction with no more than 100 left in the world.
Native to the upper Gulf of California, one out of every five of them drown from getting caught in nets that are used to catch another endangered marine animal, the totoaba, whose swim bladders are sold illegally for 4,000 dollars a pound. So, while the illegal trade thrives, the vaquita's numbers will keep declining.
11. Siberian Tiger
Also known as the Amur tiger, the beautiful cats are the largest in the world, hunted for traditional Chinese medicine, or for their corpses to be kept as trophies. Mining, forest fires, poor law enforcement, forest destruction and illegal logging will all play a part in their fall, and will further endanger this species. Today, an estimated 300 to 500 individuals exist in the wild.
12. Sumatran Orangutan
Like the Sumatran elephant, these primates are native to Sumatra. Their populations have been decreasing at an astonishing rate due to forest fires, development of oil palm plantations, illegal logging, and other causes. Hunted for food by local tribes or being caught alive to be kept as prizes, they are now critically endangered. Inadequate law enforcement leaves illegal trafficking of them unpunished. Only an estimated 7,300 of them remain in the wild.
13. Greater Bamboo Lemur
Discovered in 1870, it was believed to have become extinct by the early twentieth century. It was rediscovered in 1972. Native to Southern Madagascar, this lemur is the most elusive of all the species of lemur, with only an estimated 60 believed to exist in the dense forests and only 150 in captivity. Climate change, illegal logging, and the downward spiral of bamboo may result in its demise.
Known as the Asian unicorn and only discovered in 1993, their populations are already at risk. Deforestation , reduced genetic diversity, and loss of habitat threatens these elusive creatures. The current population is uncertain, but there are an estimated dozen to a hundred of them in the wild. Soala are hunted in great demand for traditional Chinese medicine in Vietnam and Laos.
In 1993, two of them were caught in Vietnam and were taken to captivity. Both unfortunately died in captivity a few months later. None exist in captivity, so it's hard to keep the population stable.
15. Snub Nosed Monkey
Native to China, the fluffy monkeys were thought to be extinct since the 1980s. Though, they were spotted again, they may really be extinct soon. Deforestation and habitat loss is causing their numbers to decline even more. Today, an estimated only 200 monkeys are left in the world.
This are just a few of the animals that found their way on the endangered list. There are many more that have had their populations dwindled due to human interaction, such as some that were not on the list in the picture above. We've caused their demise, and we can stop it too. Only we can save them from being gone with the wind along with many others before them.
Which animals don't you want to go extinct?
Learn more about endangered species and donate here if you want: World Wildlife Fund