Article: 25 Animal Species That We May Lose Forever : HowStuffWorks
25 Animal Species That We May Lose Forever
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A study conducted in 2015 concluded that, since the year 1900, over 500 species have vanished from the Earth for good. The Bramble Cay melomys, a little mouse-like animal from Australia, was the most recent mammal to be declared extinct in 2016. Others, like the Yangtze River dolphin and Bouvier's red colobus monkey, have yet to be declared officially extinct but none have been seen in the wild for nearly 20 years. Each year, populations continue their slow decline toward nothingness, species that had existed in our world for thousands of years and soon will be gone forever. Science may have some recourse to save some, but it's unlikely. Once these animals are dead, they're dead for good.
If people don't learn about the plight of these creatures and if they can't get educated about why it's important to save them, then perhaps there is no hope. Luckily some people do care. Conservationists are trying where and when they can to save animals from loss of habitat, from deforestation and from poachers, but it's an uphill battle. The first step is knowledge. If you want to know more about animals that are on the brink, we have 25 here you can start with. Without humanity's help, they're all destined to disappear.
The majestic Amur leopard
Amur leopards are native to Russia and China, but only about 100 of them are left in the wild right now. That number is an increase from a decade ago but just barely. Thanks to a loss of habitat due to deforestation, these animals are critically at risk. Inbreeding is also an issue since the remaining population is so small that there's a lack of genetic diversity. One of their greatest risk factors is hunting, however, as their pelts can fetch a hunter anywhere from $500 to $1000 in Russia.
Silky sifakas face many risks.
The extremely rare silky sifaka is a member of the lemur family and is distinctively snowy white, making it very easy to pick out of a crowd. Unfortunately, that white coloration has made them prime targets for hunters harvesting bushmeat. In their native Madagascar, there is a taboo against eating the meat of their cousins the golden-crowned sifakas, but not these ones. Logging has also greatly limited their habitat, the result of which is that these are one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. Only 100 to 1000 of them still live.
Nothing is more trafficked than pangolins.
The Chinese pangolin is a protected species but that has done little to preserve them in the wild. Pangolins are hunted for their meat, their claws and their scales. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, no animal in the world is more trafficked or poached than the pangolin.
Pinta Island tortoises may still live.
The Pinta Island tortoise is a Galapagos tortoise that was thought to have gone extinct when the last one, a male named Lonesome George, died at about 100 years of age in 2012 at the Charles Darwin Research Station. However, on Isabella Island, which is near Pinta Island, there is a population of 2,000 tortoises and some of those have proven to be Pinta Island hybrids. It's believed a Pinta Island may have been dumped there and is still on the island.
Deforestation took its toll on Spix's macaw.
This little blue bird from Brazil can be found in a number of zoos around the world but in the wild, it's almost never seen any longer. The species is probably most widely known thanks to the 2011 animated film "Rio" which is about the last two macaws in the world (though they still made a sequel). Most of the macaws made their homes in Carriba trees which have been utterly gutted thanks to regional deforestation. Only about 100 of them exist in captivity and breeding programs face the challenge of a lack of genetic diversity.
Was the scimitar oryx the source of unicorn myths?
In the wild, you won't find any more scimitar oryxes as they've been extinct since the year 2000. Native to North Africa, there are still some of these animals alive in captivity and efforts are being made in Texas to repopulate the species. Long ago they were bred by Ancient Egyptians and Romans and it's even speculated that one-horned oryxes may have been mistaken for unicorns long ago.
Black rhinos are slowly disappearing.
Poaching has destroyed black rhinos across Africa. Three sub-species including the Western, Southern, and Northeastern black rhinos have all gone extinct already and only about 5,500 of the remaining subspecies still exist. Their horns continued to be violently harvested for use in traditional medicine and sold on the black market for high value. In the last 60 years, their population has decreased by 96%.
There's probably no hope for white rhinos.
As desperate as the situation is for black rhines, for white rhinos, it's much worse. There are only two white rhinos left alive in the world and both of them are female. Effectively, that means the species is functionally extinct. The only slim hope they have is science. Genetic material from males has been preserved in labs so it's possible something could be done to try to keep the species alive, but it would be generations before a stable population could be established.
South China tigers only exist in zoos now.
The rare South China tiger was last confirmed in the wild back in 2004. Scattered reports of tigers still come in from time to time, but even if they are accurate, the numbers are likely in the single digits. Some of these tigers still exist in captivity but their population took a brutal drop in the last 50 years as a result of poaching, deforestation and a government "anti-pest" campaign that saw many wild animals slaughtered.
Electricity vs. the orangutans
There are three subspecies of orangutan in the world — Sumatran, Bornean and Tapanuli. Though numbers are dire for all of them, the Tapanuli orangutans are in the most danger. There are perhaps 800 of them in the wild right now and they were only recognized as a subspecies back in 2017. While they are at risk from hunting and the illegal wildlife trade like other orangutans, they're also jeopardized by a hydroelectric plant in the heart of their territory.
Sumatran elephants are suffering habitat loss.
Most elephant species in the world are in danger from poachers but Sumatran elephants, in particular, have a lot to be worried about. About 69% of their habitat has been lost in the last 25 years, and 85% of what remains is still outside protected areas. A tally in 2007 put the Sumatran elephant population at around 2,800.
Disease is a risk for Cross River gorillas.
There are four subspecies of gorillas in the world, but the Cross River gorilla, closely related to western lowland gorillas, is the one most at risk today. Like all gorillas, they are hunted for bushmeat and they also suffer from habitat loss. Unlike many creatures, however, Cross River gorillas are also highly susceptible to disease. Ebola has killed off many, and even in captivity mysterious heart ailments plague them.
Only a handful of vaquitas remain.
A vaquita is a very tiny species of dolphin that usually lives off the coast of Mexico. They're also considered the most endangered cetacean in the world with a rapidly dwindling population. In 2014, their numbers were estimated at 100. In 2015 it was 60. By 2018 it was under 15. The biggest threat to their population has been gillnets catching them as by-catch. Though the Mexican government has spent millions trying to prevent their demise, it has been unsuccessful.
An unexpected victim of war
The Northern bald ibis may not be the prettiest bird in the world, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't care about their fate. Ony 500 or so of these birds live in the wild now and their numbers are not dwindling because of hunting and deforestation. Native to Syria and Morocco and parts of Africa and the East, pesticides and war have ravaged their habitats and left only a few specimens that conservationists are trying to preserve with breeding programs.
Western chimps are on the brink.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which has red-listed Western chimpanzees as being critically endangered, it's possible that within three generations about 80% of their population could disappear. Currently, there are about 21,000 to 55,000 of the chimps in the wild with bushmeat poaching and habitat loss being their main threat.
These sea turtles were harvested for jewelry.
Hawksbill sea turtles' numbers were destroyed between 1950 and 1993 as a result of the trade in their shells. In Japan, in particular, 1.3 million shells were harvested in that time period for use in jewelry. This practice has been outlawed but it still happens illegally, as does the hunt of hawksbills for food. Some estimates put the population of these turtles at only 15,000 egg-laying females.
One island sloths
The pygmy three-toed sloth is a lot like its regular-sized cousins but only grows to 21 inches in length and maybe 7 pounds, so very much like a small dog. Off the coast of Panama on an island called Isla Escudo de Veraguas is the only place these little creatures called home and, as a result of their limited range, there only about 100 or so of them left alive.
The mysterious loss of the hirola
Hirola are a relative of the antelope that live between Kenya and Somalia. Just a few hundred of them still exist in the wild, but their loss has been hard to pin down. Like many animals, hunting has been an issue for them as has their tendency to graze near livestock. This proximity to domesticated animals has left many of them exposed to diseases they might otherwise avoid in the wild.
Hunters are decimating this species.
Roloway monkeys live in West Africa, throughout Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, a combination of hunting and habitat loss have greatly reduced their numbers. Every year, Ghana produces 800 tons of bushmeat and because of the monkeys' bright coloration, they're an easy target. Likewise, deforestation has cut back nearly 80% of Ghana's forests in the last century, leaving few places for these monkeys to live.
Feral predators put this bird at risk.
Despite its name, the Amsterdam albatross is not from Amsterdam, rather Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean. Only 130 of these birds live on the island and they're subject to predation from the island's rat and feral cat population. At sea, the birds are also at risk thanks to longline fishing which can trap and kill the birds when they dive for the bait.
The ultra-rare saola is a hunter's prize.
Saola look like a cross between deer and cattle that are native to Vietnam. The photo above is actually the first-ever photo anyone ever captured of this animal. it was taken in 1999 by an automatic wildlife camera that caught one purely by chance. Saola live in remote forests but they're hunted by locals for meat and also for their pelts. Because they're so rare, a saola skin is worth more money than any normal antelope's.
No bamboo means no lemurs.
Greater bamboo lemurs have an extremely limited diet, which is to say they only eat one kind of bamboo and nothing else. That dietary limitation is likely why these animals were already thought to have gone extinct once. A small population of about 500 was later discovered, but all the usual concerns of hunting and habitat loss combined with food limitations put these animals at even greater risk than most.
By-catch has threatened angel sharks.
One of the most unusual sharks in the world, angel sharks are wide and flat and usually harmless unless you provoke one. Despite that, because they're also bottom dwellers, they've been extremely susceptible to commercial fishing practices like trawling which tangle the angel sharks up as by-catch. Already, these sharks are extinct in many of their former locations like the North Sea.
Predators love these marmots.
Vancouver Island marmots are at risk from predators in a staggering way. 83% of yearly deaths are caused by predators, things like wolves or mountain lions. This, combined with deforestation and habitat loss taking away places for the marmots to hide making them vulnerable to those predators, has caused their numbers to plummet into the hundreds. That's actually an increase, since there were only about 30 left in 2003.
Victims of a theme park
The colorful Ariape manakin is native to northeastern Brazil. They were only discovered in 1996 and it's believed only perhaps 500 pairs of them exist in the wild. The range in which they were discovered was developed in the year 2000, turned into a theme park that set up water slides and paved over much of the native forest where these birds used to live.
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