Lists 10 animals on the verge of extinction and the reasons behind the reduction in their numbers
1. Iberian lynx
The Iberian (Spanish) lynx lives in very small areas of central and southern Spain (Andalucia). It used to live throughout Spain and Portugal but its numbers have been drastically reduced to the point where it is now one of the most endangered wild cats in the world.
In the early 1950s the myxomatosis virus was illegally introduced by a French scientist to kill the wild rabbits on his estate which were destroying his vegetable patch. The virus spread rapidly, and killed about 90% of the wild rabbits in France. Spanish rabbits also died in huge numbers even going completely missing in some areas, so thousands of lynx starved to death. Habitat loss, hunting and trapping also have decimated the lynx. They are protected now, but they still get caught in fox traps. Another cause of death recently is getting hit by cars in Donana National Park.
Population size: approximately 100 – 150
Reproduction: Females breed about once a year, with a litter size of 1-3 cubs. In breeding captivity programs, a litter of 3 cubs was born in 2005, and another 3 cubs in March 2009.
What can I do?
Donate to SOS Lynx, a lynx conservation organisation.
2. Saiga antelope
Adults can run up to 50mph in bursts, and herds have been known to range hundreds of miles in several days. As recently as 1950 there could have been about 2 million saiga, however, the population since then has been reduced by about 97%. The source of the devastation is a very strong demand for the horns of the males for traditional chinese medicine. Poachers are killing the antelopes in a large numbers steadily. Some believe the horns can be used to treat fevers and they are sold for about $100 per pound.
Traditional medicine often has no basis in science; and is rooted in superstition or anecdotal evidence. It is especially tragic that so many of the antelope are being slaughtered over a misconception. The National Wildlife federation provided an account of the rate of slaughter in one 2004 incident, “some 80,000 saiga crossed from Kalmykia into the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan to the south. Weeks later, only a few animals returned.”
Population size: approximately 42,000 but the rate of slaughter is very high, and constant due to poaching. Even in a protected area, the population has been cut 95% since 1997. The saiga is one of the most rapidly declining mammals in the world.
Reproduction: Females breed about once a year, with a litter size of 1-2 calves.
What can I do?
Donate to the Saiga Conservation Alliance. Even donating $5 helps, which is about the cost of one latte. Alert relatives or friends in China that Saiga horn very likely is not a cure for fevers; any ‘benefit’ observed is most likely just the placebo effect. Traditional medicines can actually cause harm, such as the Mexican folk medicine Greta, which can be 90% lead and lead can cause brain damage. Forward this article to anyone you know who is a teacher so it can be used as part of a class lesson.
3. Sumatran tiger
The Sumatran tiger is being decreased substantially by poaching and logging of its traditional forest range. Some of the logging is illegal. Recent research has indicated that the clash between tigers and humans in Sumatra that has killed both species is due to the aggressive destruction of forests by Asia Pulp and Paper.
About 100 tigers live in a nature preserve on the island, but poachers are killing them even in protected areas. The Bali, Java, and Trinil tigers which are related to the Sumatran, have all been driven into extinction.
Population: Approximately 400
Reproduction: Females usually give birth once a year to several cubs. Cubs are born blind.
What can I do?
Don’t buy paper products made by Asia Pulp and Paper. If you don’t know if they are, buy only paper products made in your home country, and products made from recycled paper in your home country. Adopt a wild Sumatran via the Sumatran Tiger Trust. (If an individual can not
afford the adoption, it could be more affordable for a class of 20 students each paying 1.50, or a family each paying about 7 dollars.)
4. Silky sifafka
This species of lemur only lives on the island of Madagascar in the northeastern rainforests. Its population is very small and it is hunted by some local people for meat. It is one of the most endangered primates in the world. The silky sifafka has never been bred in captivity, meaning if it is killed entirely in the wild, it most likely can’t be kept alive in a captive breeding program or zoo.
Unfortunately, the species has a low birth rate. Compounding matters, political turmoil has disrupted normal operations at one of the sites where they live. The Marojejy park has closed to tourism because of unsafe conditions created by armed thugs stealing very valuable hardwoods.
Population: approximately 100 – 1000
Reproduction: generally females birth one infant every two years, but there are cases of a female birthing one infant per year.
What can I do?
Contact Erik Patel of Cornell University and ask him what you can do. Show this silky lemur documentary to students when it is available. Visit the lemur park when it is safe to do so, and don’t forget about Madagascar during the political upheaval, as the Marojejy park website says, “While you might not be able to visit some of these beautiful areas right now, we hope you will not forget them, and that you will continue to work for their preservation.”
Vaquita live in Mexico’s Gulf of California and are the smallest and most
endangered cetacean in the world. About 40 to 80 are killed in gill nets each year. The World Wildlife Fund in both Mexico and the US are collaborating on implementing measures to protect them such as the creation of a marine preserve and banning the use of damaging fishing equipment in their habitat. Without such actions, the animal may not survive much longer. It is the only porpoise adapted to live in such warm water.
Population: approximately 600 or less
Reproduction: Not much is known on this topic. They could have a gestation period of 11 months, and give birth to one calf every two years.
What can I do?
Donate to the World Wildlife Fund specifically for the vaquita. Watch this Vaqita video. Take your camera if you visit the Gulf of California and photograph the porpoise if you can. There aren’t many photos of them alive. Take a legitimate ecotour and view the vaquita in its natural habitat without disturbing it. If local fisherman begin to understand the endangered porpoise has tourist appeal maybe they will be more open to changing.
6. Javan Rhino
The large mammal is elusive and is the least studied of the rhinos. They can live 30-40 years and are solitary except for mating and parenting. Two very small populations live in Java in the Ujung Kulon National Park, and in Vietnam’s Cat Tien Park. Javans used to have the largest population of the rhinos, living in Indonesia, China, Southeast Asia and India. But the it has been driven right to the brink of extinction mainly due to poaching. The horn is in great demand for traditional chinese medicine, and one kilogram can bring $30,000. Apparently it is believed the horn when ground up can be used to ‘cure’ a wide range of things, some of which are not medical conditions: “To expel fear and anxiety, to calm the liver and clear the vision.”
At the point of sale, when it has already been powdered it is very difficult to confirm if the actual products contain any true rhino horn because some sellers are substituting the bones of other animals to exploit gullible buyers. (Besides the fact that it has never been validated scientifically).
Population: Less than 60
Reproduction: Females give birth probably every 1-3 years. Gestation lasts 15-16 months.
What Can I Do? Never purchase any products that are advertised as made from Javan Rhino horn, or any rhino. Tell friends and relatives about the perils of those kinds of products made from animals parts. Keep in mind they actually might made be made from dog bones or other more common animals. (Regardless of what the seller says). Donate to the International Rhino Foundation.
7. Cross River Gorilla
This primate is one of the most endangered in the world. It lives in a region between Nigeria and Cameroon in moist broadleaf forests. About one hundred and fifteen live in two parks created just for their protection: Takamanda National Park and Cross River National Park.
These gorillas are quite wary of humans, and there have been very few direct sightings of them. The main threats to them are habitat loss and death due to the bushmeat trade. They can also contract human diseases.
Population: 250 – 300
What can I do?
Donate to the African Conservation Foundation. If it is safe for you to travel there, visit the area where the gorillas are like a British Columbian couple did.
8. South China Tiger
The big cat is considered to be the species other modern tigers evolved from. It is currently thought to be extinct in the wild, and only live in nature preserves managed by humans, and a captive breeding program. The population is so tiny some assume the species will be completely extinct in about a decade. As recently as 1959 there may have been about 4,000 of them living in the wild. Mao Zedong declared them a ‘pest’ and ‘enemies of the people’ so campaigns to eliminate them were enacted. By 1982 only about 200 were left. The Chinese government recently has been working to save them.
An innovative captive breeding program was started in South Africa, by a non-profit organization. Li Quan started Save China’s Tigers and has had some success in birthing cubs in captivity. The hope is the cubs can be taught to hunt in the South African preserves and they can be returned to live in nature preserves in China.
Population: Approximately 60 in captivity. No confirmed wild sightings in 20 years.
Reproduction: Females can mate any time of year. They usually have one litter per year of 1-3 cubs.
What can I do?
Donate to Save China’s Tigers. Never buy any products that advertise as containing tiger parts.
9. Amur Leopard
This wild cat lives in the Far East of Russia and faces an extremely high risk of extinction.
It is mainly threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation and development. Poaching also kills them. A coalition of 13 conservation organizations has banded together to implement public education campaigns, anti-poaching measures, and a raft of other actions to prevent the leopards from being lost forever. They live about 10- 15 years in the wild.
Population: Approximately 135 or less in the wild.
Reproduction: Females birth about 1 litter per year of 1-6 cubs. Gestation is about 100 days.
Cubs live with the mother for 18-24 months.
What can I do?
Donate to ALTA Amur Leopard Conservation or contact them about possible eco tours if you can travel there.
10. Frogs, and other amphibians
Frogs are not one animal, but so many of them are under threat they fit the definition of endangered for this list. In 2009 a study reported that 200 million to one billion frogs are killed every year for frogs legs consumption. Australian researcher Corey Bradshaw, who is one the study’s authors said: “About half of all listed amphibians are threatened with extinction”. Amphibian Ark states 50% of amphibians could go extinct. “50%: of ~6,000 described amphibian species, are threatened with extinction. 32% known to be threatened + 23% data deficient but believed threatened”. The percentage quoted here from Conservational International is 40%.
The chytrid fungus is the main killer of frogs currently. It is thought it was introduced by the importation of African Clawed Frogs who carried the fungus out of Africa. The African frogs were used decades ago to determine if a woman was pregnant. The african frogs carry the fungus but are immune to it. Unfortunately they continue to be sold as pets. Some are released into the wild and spread the fungus to native frogs. They also eat almost anything that moves including native frogs. (Never release an African Clawed Frog into any body of water or any other place.) Recently it was reported on this site that scientists are working together to save frogs from the fungus.
Population: Numbers are not known. Populations are dwindling rapidly.
Reproduction: Unknown due to the fungus.
What can I do?
Consider getting a different type of pet than an African Clawed Frog. If you already have one, never release it into the wild. If you know someone who has one or more, tell them not to release them ever. If you are able, consider reducing your consumption of frogs legs, or not eating them ever. The frogs of the world could use a break. Donate to the Amphibian Conservation Alliance. Watch this documentary about frogs under siege and efforts being made by scientists to protect and restore them. See how to swab a frog for the deadly fungus.
This list of animals is only an introduction to a very large number around the world under threat of extinction. For a more comprehensive examination visit the Edge of Existence.