ENDANGERED & THREATENED SPECIES FACTS

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Well over 900 plants and animals are endangered, and hundreds more are threatened. Many of the reasons certain animals are disappearing forever are because of human activities.

FIVE MAJOR CAUSES 

The mnemonic HIPPO represents the five major causes of declining wildlife biodiversity: H - Habitat Loss; I - Invasive Species; P - Pollution and Pesticides; P - Population Growth (human) and the Pet Trade; O - Over-hunting and Over-collecting.

THE EXTINCTION CRISIS

It's a dreadful reality. We are going through our sixth period of plant and animal mass extinction, the sixth to happen in the last 500 million years. The current wave is considered to be the worst series of species elimination since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. Granted, extinction is a phenomenon that occurs naturally, however it normally happens at a rate of 1 to 5 species every year. But, as scientists estimate, we are currently losing species 1,000-10,000 times faster than that, which means that literally tens of species are vanishing from the face of the Earth every day.

10 WAYS TO HELP ENDANGERED SPECIES

Conservation of endangered species may sound like a job for politicians and scientists. A problem of such proportions seems impossible to be tackled by the average person. But you can make a significant impact by adopting some simple habits; and if we all do the same, we have the power to protect endangered animals all over the world. Here are 10 ways you can make a difference for endangered species.

WHALES FACING MULTIPLE THREATS

Whales are among the most fascinating and talked about creatures on the planet. These mammals are not just the largest creatures of the ocean, but of the Earth. Even the smallest species, the dwarf sperm whale, is 8.5 feet long and can weigh at least 135 kilograms. The biggest, the blue whale, is over a 100 feet in length and can weigh as much as 210 tons. Whale species include the killer whale, blue whale, humpback whale, the narwhal or narwhale, beluga whale, gray whale, bowhead whale, fin whale, North Atlantic right whale and dozens more.

PANGOLINS ARE THE MOST TRAFFICKED MAMMALS

Most people have ever heard of pangolins. Yet around the globe they are facing an unprecedented crisis. The pangolin is one of the most sought-after and poached wild animals in the world. Nearly one million have been illegally traded over the past decade. Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are nocturnal, ant and termite eating mammals found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa whose bodies are covered with overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails, and rhino horn.

PARROTS AND TOUCANS: BIRDS IN DANGER

While it's quite common to keep parrots and toucans as “pets” for human entertainment, they are creatures of the wild and not meant to be caged. Thousands of these birds are still taken away from their families and flocks every year, packed up as if they were toys and sold at bird shows, through pet shops, or peddled on the internet. Many don't survive the journey, and those who do are likely to be destined for a life of misery. As a result of the demand, populations in the wild have suffered immensely.

WHAT IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

Life on Earth over the millennia has been defined by the evolution, survival and demise of multitudes of species. The churning of species is part of the life process and extinction is one inevitable component. But humans are now playing a large part in the extinction of many species. Human activities are responsible for the significant changes in the world's environment.

JAGUARS STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL

The jaguar is the third-largest animal in the cat family, after the tiger and the lion. Dating back to almost half a million years, the jaguar strode the entire length of the American continent from just below the Arctics in the north down to Patagonia in southern-most Argentina. But sadly, it has found its present day habitat restricted to the tropical jungles of Central America and Amazon in South America. This translates into a habitat loss of almost 40%. Not a single jaguar has been spotted in the US in the last half a century.

HUNTING WILDLIFE TO EXTINCTION

In just the past 40 years, nearly 52 percent of the planet’s wildlife species have been eliminated. The leading cause of these shocking declines is irresponsible and unethical human activities. In addition to the devastating consequences of deforestation, animal agriculture, development, and environmental pollution, the wildlife trade is playing a major role in species extinction. Poaching, which involves the illegal killing, hunting and capturing of wild animals for sale, is the biggest threat to wildlife after habitat destruction.

HOW YOU CAN HELP CONSERVE WILDLIFE

There are many ways you can help to conserve important animals across the globe. Here are a few examples of things you can do to help support international conservation efforts: Volunteer! Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in your country and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you. If you can't volunteer, donate. Wildlife conservation organizations require funding to carry out their critical missions of saving animals.

KOALAS: A PEACEFUL SLUMBER DISTURBED

With its cuddly stout body and large paws, the koala resembles a small teddy bear. The koala bear is an Australian icon and its habitat is exclusively confined to the coastal eucalyptus forests in the North-western and South-eastern parts of the country, spread over the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. While eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to many animals inhabiting this region, to the koala it forms an essential part of its diet.

ANIMAL AGRICULTURE CAUSING ANIMAL EXTINCTION

As the animal agriculture industry continues to take over the Earth's landmass, species rich habitats are being quickly destroyed. A frightening one acre of land is cleared every second. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, habitat destruction and ocean dead zones. Animal agribusiness already occupies about 40% of Earth’s landmass and accounts for 75% of global deforestation. The rapid destruction is causing species to disappear.

PENGUINS FACE AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Penguins waddle around in ungainly fashion on ground, but once in water they transform into expert swimmers and can cruise at speeds of 15 miles per hour. Although the penguin is a bird species, they are unable to fly because they have flippers instead of wings. The penguin's black body and white belly is an excellent aquatic camouflage when it sets out to hunt for food, which mainly consists of fish, crabs, squid and shrimps.

CHIMPANZEE FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL

Millions chimpanzees once thrived in the forests of 25 different African nations. Today, their populations have been reduced to only 5 nations and their numbers have plummeted to between 150,000 and 300,000. Without immediate action, humans' closest living relative could be lost in only 15 years. Humans are largely responsible for chimpanzee population declines. In addition to poaching, which plagues areas of Africa, deforesting and farming are quickly eliminating the habitats of chimps.

LEOPARDS HAVE LOST 75 PERCENT OF THEIR RANGE

The leopard (Panthera pardus), one of the world’s most iconic big cats, has lost as much as 75 percent of its historic range. Animal agriculture, as well as illegal trade in leopard skins and parts and legal trophy hunting, are having a devastating effect on leopards. Recent research challenges the conventional assumption in many areas that leopards remain relatively abundant and not seriously threatened. The leopard is a famously elusive animal, which is likely why it has taken so long to recognize its global decline.

SAVING GORILLAS FROM EXTINCTION

Descendants of monkeys found in Africa and Arabia, gorillas are herbivorous apes found only in the African continent. There are two broad species of this African animal. One is the Eastern gorilla and the other the Western gorilla. The Eastern gorilla has two subspecies. The Western gorilla also has two subspecies. All gorilla species are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gorilla populations have been greatly reduced by habitat loss, disease and poaching.

PANDAS IN PERIL

Like most endangered creatures, the giant panda has had to bear the brunt of man's frantic quest for development. No place embodies this phenomena more starkly than China, of which this furry animal is a native. The panda population in the plains of China have completely vanished over the millennia, and the only giant pandas remaining are those found in the Qinling Mountains of the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces of Central China. These rain-soaked forests are at elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet and are generally covered in clouds and mist.

DOLPHINS UNDER THREAT

The dolphin is found in almost all seas and oceans of the world, and even some rivers. Their amazing intelligence, creativity, playfulness and complex culture captures the hearts and minds of humans around the globe. But these fascinating creatures are continuously under threat from human activities, including marine pollution, habitat degradation, hunting, low frequency sonar and fishing gear. Many dolphin species face an uncertain future.

TROPHY HUNTING: MONEY AND EGOTISM OVER WILDLIFE SURVIVAL

Trophy hunting is the killing of an animal for recreation. Parts of the animal, in most cases the head or skin, are kept by the hunter as a display item or “trophy”. The hunters glamorize the killing of animals, believing it demonstrates their virility, prowess and dominance. Trophy hunting is an elitist hobby for millionaires and billionaires who pay huge fees to kill large, exotic and rare animals. Many of these hunters are members of powerful and wealthy organizations that promote the slaughter of rare and sensitive species with elaborate award programs.

LEMURS: SPIRITS OF THE NIGHT

About 600 miles off the coast of South-Eastern Africa lies the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar. Famed for its lush green tropical forest, misty highlands, temperate climate and 3,000 miles of coastline, this jewel in the Indian Ocean is home to one of the most exotic creatures in the world – the lemurs. Madagascar's 160 million years of isolation as a landmass has shaped an ecosystem and habitat that's perfectly suited and unique to the existence of lemurs.

BRINGING TIGERS BACK FROM THE BRINK

There were almost 100,000 tigers roaming the wilds of the planet in the early 1900's. The drastic fall in the population of this magnificent beast to just a few thousands within the span of a century tells a lot about human callousness and cruelty towards wildlife. Until a couple of decades ago, the tiger was killed purely for sport, especially in India. The times of the maharajahs abound with folklore of how these unfortunate animals were hunted down and showcased in village squares, courtyards and drawing rooms of the wealthy.

THE EVILS OF IVORY

Continued high demand for illegal wildlife products has greatly endangered many species like elephants, rhinos, and tigers, leaving some facing imminent extinction. The world is experiencing the worst poaching crisis in history, rivaling that in the 1980s, when more than 800 tons of ivory left Africa every year and the continent’s elephant populations plunged from 1.3 million to 600,000.

GIRAFFES IN DANGER

The giraffe is loved and known across the world, but very few people are aware that we are losing both this iconic species and its close relative, the okapi, at an unprecedented and alarming rate. Giraffe and okapi are the only living species in the Giraffidae family and share a number of common features, such as elongated necks and long, dark-coloured tongues (both adaptations for feeding on tree leaves).

WHICH IS MORE VALUABLE: GOLD, COCAINE OR RHINO HORN?

The answer is devastating news for Earth’s largest animals. Many of the world’s largest herbivores — including several species of elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and gorillas — are in danger of becoming extinct. And if current trends continue, the loss of these animals would have drastic implications not only for the species themselves, but also for other animals and the environments and ecosystems in which they live.

15 ANIMALS TO BE EXTINCT SOON

Fifteen animal species are at the greatest risk of becoming extinct very soon. Expertise and money is needed to save them and other highly threatened species. According to a new study of highly threatened species, 841 endangered animal species can be saved, but only if conservation efforts are implemented immediately and with an investment of an estimated US $1.3 billion annually to ensure the species' habitat protection and management.

ANTELOPES IN DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Antelopes are an increasing conservation concern, with one-third of the world's 87 species now listed as threatened. Loss of habitat, game hunting, poaching, and loss of grazing land to cattle farmers are some of the biggest threats to antelope populations. Adding to the threats to antelope populations is changes in climate. For 82 percent of African antelope species, forecasts show a decline in suitable habitat by 2080 due to the effect of climate change. About one-quarter are likely to see their range size drop in half.

DEFORESTATION: CLEARING THE PATH FOR WILDLIFE EXTINCTION

As the population of the world grows, more mouths to feed means more land needed for agriculture. Where will the land come from? From the denudation of forests, of course. Rather than focusing on sustainable forms of vegetable farming, the modern farming industry continues to promote animal agribusiness. Raising animals for food results in massive amounts of forest destruction. It takes 12 times as much land, 13 times more fuel and 15 times more water to make a pound of animal protein than to make a pound of plant protein.

WHY SAVE ENDANGERED SPECIES?

Since life began on Earth, countless creatures have come and gone, rendered extinct by naturally changing physical and biological conditions. Since extinction is part of the natural order, and if many other species remain, some people ask: "Why save endangered species? Why should we spend money and effort to conserve them? How do we benefit?" Congress answered these questions in the preamble to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, recognizing that endangered and threatened species of wildlife and plants "are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people."

POLAR BEARS IN DANGER

Our oceans, seas, rivers and lakes are home to a large percentage of the animal species of earth. Many mammals have adapted to life in the water. Even those that never leave it still have lungs to breath oxygen and give birth to live young. Most of us know that whales and dolphins are aquatic mammals, living exclusively in the ocean, but there are semi-aquatic mammals, like seals, sealions, manatee and walrus, that live both in the sea and on the land. Among them, with a classification of its own, is one of earth’s largest carnivores: the polar bear.

SAVE SEA TURTLES

Sea turtles, air-breathing reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers, are well adapted to life in the marine environment. They inhabit tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world. Of the 7 species of sea turtles, 6 are found in U.S. waters: green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley. The 7th species, the flatback sea turtle, is found only in Australia. Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females must return to beaches on land to lay their eggs. They often migrate long distances between foraging grounds and nesting beaches.

SAVE THE WHALES

Whales are hunted for their meat and other body parts. The oil from their bodies has been used to make lipstick, shoe polish and margarine. The practice of hunting whales began in the 9th century when Spain undertook the first organized hunt. By the 20th century, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, France, Germany, Norway, Japan and the United States had begun to kill large numbers of whales. Certain species of whales were hunted so much that their numbers began to decline. There were fewer whales than there had been before.

SAVING THE MANATEE

While some claim the manatee is ugly, with ‘a face only a mother could love,’ most people seem drawn to this fascinating marine creature. Whether it’s their sad, puppy-like demeanor, or their sluggish, gentle manner, something about manatees is awfully endearing. The manatee, or sea cow, is an aquatic mammal. With a round cylindrical body, they can measure from 8 to 13 feet from tail to head. Weights can vary from 450 lbs for the smallest species to 1,300 lbs for the larger ones.

HELP LEOPARDS

Leopards are beautiful cats generally found in the dense, damp, forested areas of India and Southeast Asia. Once common in all parts of Africa apart from the Sahara, they have now disappeared from most parts of northern Africa (apart from a few areas of the Atlas Mountains) and are scarce in the extreme west of the continent. The leopard is under extreme threat, especially in the Middle East and southwest Asia. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because it is declining in large parts of its range due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and hunting for trade and pest control. It is regionally extinct in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya and Tunisia.

CHIMPANZEES NEED HELP

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas. Chimpanzees and humans share 99 percent of their genetic composition. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent, probably more so than human-based tests are able to measure. They make and use tools, cooperate with and learn from each other, and can learn various forms of expression and communication, including American Sign Language and computer symbols. Chimpanzees also have good memories. Fewer than 250,000 chimpanzees still exist in western and central Africa.

SAVE ELEPHANTS

Centuries ago, the African elephant enjoyed ample representation among the teeming herds of wildlife that roamed the African continent. Today, their survival dangles on the precipice of extinction due to unchecked human population growth and overdevelopment. Once numbering in the millions, the continent-wide population in Africa is now estimated to be just under 600,000 elephants.

SAVING SPECIES

Wildlife preservation is informed management of the natural environment to protect and benefit plants and animals. Extinction may occur due to natural causes. However, the actions of people and the growth of human population have all too quickly created a threat to the well being of wildlife. There have been declines in the numbers of some species and extinction of others. The need for conservation was created by human beings. About 2 million years ago, when Homo sapiens first appeared on the earth, their world was biologically rich. Millions of species of plants and animals flourished...from the single celled to the complex. The first humans enjoyed a lush and beautiful environment filled with brilliant color and variety. Every ecosystem harbored life in many forms...from forest to meadow, wetland to desert. 

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE ARCTIC

If you're a Bowhead whale and you spend summers in the Arctic—congratulations! Life is good. Your food supply is growing and your waters are warming. Your summer "vacation" lasts a few weeks longer now than it used to (say, back in 1980). That's because there isn't as much sea ice and it doesn't form as early in the fall as it used to.

SEA OTTERS: THE KELP KEYSTONE

In nature, all living things are in some way connected. Within each community each species depends on one or more of the others for survival. And at the core of individual ecosystems is a creature, or in some cases a plant, known as a keystone species. This species operates much like a true key stone, which is the stone at the top of an arch that supports the other stones and keeps the whole arch from falling down.

PALM OIL THREATS TO ORANGUTANS

Once found all over South-East Asia and even the far reaches of Southern China, orangutans have found themselves squeezed to just the two islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The great red-haired apes have been around for almost 400,000 years, but have seen their numbers dwindle alarmingly from over 200,000 a century ago to only 45,000 presently. The habitats of this iconic animal have been pushed to the rain forests.

RHINO: AN ANCIENT ANIMAL AT RISK

The rhino is one of the largest and most powerful animals on earth, and one of the most ancient. Its origins can be traced back 50 million years when it was know as Paraceratherium, the giant rhinoceros. This monstrous creature weighed nearly 20 tons and roamed the grasslands that ranged from Europe to China. It survived the ravages of the Ice Age, migrated continents, fought against predatory adversaries like the crocodile and prehistoric hyenas, and evolved into what we know as the present day rhinoceros. Human hunting and unstable conditions of habitat have reduced this majestic animal.

VULTURES AT RISK

Vultures. Cartoon characters in parched deserts often wish them to disappear, since circling vultures are a stereotypical harbinger of death. In reality, vultures in some parts of the world are in danger of disappearing. And according to recent research, such a loss would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike. The primary threat to vultures is the presence of toxins in the carrion they consume. Populations of most vulture species around the world are now either declining or on the brink of extinction.

SEALS AND SEA LIONS UNDER SIEGE

The image of seals and sea lions conjures up thousands of these creatures basking on the rocky beaches of the U.S. West coast, Australia and Tasmania and ice floes of the Arctics. While similarities between these two amphibious mammals seem apparent, there are some inherent differences. The pinniped, the family to which these two belong, consists of the phocidae or true seals and otariidae or sea lions. True seals are believed to have descended from a terrestrial creature closely resembling the weasel, while the sea lion traces back its origins to a bear-like animal.