Living in a world of constant urban development while competing with humans for space and resources, many animals have been put on the endangered species list (or have been all together wiped out) in the past century. Extinction and endangerment are not new concepts, and though many groups have rallied together their available resources, species continue to slip away. With approximately 20,000 species (a number which rises almost daily) having their name on the endangered list, the ever-present risk of extinction is without a doubt more present than ever. Some species have less than a hundred individual subjects left in existence, facing an almost impossible chance of being saved.
Leatherback Sea Turtle
The largest turtles on the planet, these massive creatures once populated every ocean of the world, except the Arctic and Antarctic. On average, only one out of every thousand leatherback hatchlings making it to adulthood, and eggs are often seized by humans in order to be consumed (some believe the leatherback turtles eggs are an aphrodisiac). With such a slim percentage of turtles reaching adulthood, and adult turtles often getting hit by boats or caught in nets (among other causes of death), the once widespread leatherback turtle is now on the endangered species list. Although the leatherback turtle population in the Atlantic ocean has been observed as mostly stable, the Pacific population has exhibited a sharp decline, enough to land the leatherback on the endangered list, according to the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Extinct in China and the Korean Peninsula, the Amur Leopard is among the world’s most endangered big cats. The remainder of the species’ wild numbers can be found in the Amur River basin of eastern Russia. A victim of poaching and extreme habitat destruction, 80 percent of the creature’s natural habitat was destroyed between 1970 and 1983, mostly thanks to logging, agricultural land conversion and forest fires. The Amur Leopard has been placed on the critically endangered species list, with an approximate wild population of 30-40 individuals. As of 2011, there were 176 individuals kept In captivity, a number low enough to subject the Amur Leopard to inbreeding. Inbred Amur Leopards are more easily susceptible to health problems, and have decreased fertility, making the survival odds of the beautiful big cats unlikely.
Discovered in 1992, the critically endangered saola is a particularly elusive creature. Due to being a fairly recently discovered creature, not much information has secured on the saola. Scattered throughout the Annamites and Vietnam, the saola may have formerly been distributed in wet forest areas, though said areas are now populated by humans, cutting the already slim habitat of the saola down even more. Hunting and habitat loss are primary causes of the saola’s critically endangered condition. The saola’s unique horns are prized as trophies for hunters, making the species’ struggle all the more uphill.
Without a doubt one of the most well-known cases of an endangered species, the largest big cat has made a unique impact on society’s views on at-risk creatures. The beauty of the Siberian Tiger has captivated the planet, provoking research while greatly raising endangered species awareness. Beauty however isn’t the only thing the Siberian Tiger (or Amur Tiger, which it is alternatively known as) is notable for. The creature’s massive size makes it easily feared, leading to extensive hunting in order to thin the population. Despite high breeding rates in captivity, poor genetic profile is a main concern for the Siberian Tiger’s future, much like the Amur Leopard.
With a population of approximately 30 Javan rhino’s left clinging to existence in the Ujung Kulon National Park of Java, Indonesia, the world’s most threatened rhino species is a critically endangered species, and one of the rarest mammals on the planet. The Javan rhino is at risk from several threats, including natural disasters (the Ujung Kulon National Park’s high vulnerability to tsunamis is a threat), the nearby Anak Krakatau volcano, disease and sparse genetic diversity. “We have brought white, black, and Indian rhinos back from the brink of extinction, so we know how to save rhino species. Now it’s time to pull together as a global conservation community to do the same for the Javan rhino”, Asian Species Expert Dr. Barney Long states, providing some hope for the critically endangered rhino’s future.
With the number of species on the endangered list rising annually, organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation need more support than ever in order to save so many species from extinction. These organizations accept donations gratefully, and although not every person in the world is capable of sending support, any amount of assistance, no matter how small, can help so many threatened creatures. With many species having already been saved from the endangered list, hope is not lost, so long as people continue to raise awareness and give their support.
By Christopher White