- Education and Science»
- Life Sciences»
- Endangered Species
10 Most Endangered Animals in the World
The Ten Most Endangered Animals
The ten most endangered animals are 1. the Baiji or Yangtze river dolphin, 2. the Amur Leopard, 3. the Javan Rhinoceros, 4. the Siberian Tiger, 5. the Sumatran Rhinoceros, 6. the Cross River Gorilla, 7. the Mountain Gorilla, 8. the Black Rhinoceros, 9. the Vaquita, and 10. the Borneo Pygmy Elephant.
What do you think the number one reason for animals becoming endangered or extinct?
Of the ten most endangered animals in the world, two are aquatic animals. These would be the Baiji and the Vaquita. The Baiji, also called the Yangtze River Dolphin, is a species of fresh-water dolphin that lives only in the Yangtze River, China. This Dolphin has been ranked as the world’s most endangered species, as a 2007 expedition only found three. Since, none have been seen. The primary threat has been fisherman catching dolphins.
Five natural reserves have been established along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River since 1986 for the protection of the Yangtze river dolphin, and another rare cetacean species, the Yangtze finless porpoise. However, these reserves do not prevent the incidental death of these species.
The Amur Leopard is native to northern Asia, specifically Russia. There are only 40 Amur Leopards left in the world, the second most endangered animal. The Amur Leopard is very elusive and has always had a small population. This species has been hunted for its pelt for hundreds of years. The Amur leopard is poached largely for its beautiful, spotted fur. Agriculture and villages surround the forests where the leopards live. As a result the forests are relatively accessible, making poaching a problem—not only for the leopards themselves, but also for important prey species, such as roe deer, sika deer and hare, which are hunted by the villagers both for food and cash.
The Javan Rhinoceros is the most endangered Rhinoceros in the world. There are less than fifty individuals of this Rhinoceros species in the world, placing it in the number three spot of the top ten. Recently the Javan Rhinoceros could only be found in to places, Vietnam and Indonesia. However, the Javan Rhinoceros recently went extinct in Vietnam “much to the dismay of conservation groups around the world”. These rhinos face multiple threats.
- The small size of the Javan rhino population is in itself a cause for concern. Low genetic diversity could make it hard for the species to remain viable.
- Ujung Kulon National Park is highly vulnerable to tsunamis and a major explosion of the Anak Krakatau volcano could easily wipe out all life in the protected area.
- Nearly 50% of the park has been overrun by Arenga palm, a native but invasive species that leaves the area barren of food for rhinos.
- In recent years four rhinos, including one young adult female, are thought to have died from disease, probably transmitted to wild cattle in the park and subsequently to the rhinos.
Coming in fourth place on the list is the Siberian tiger. The Siberian Tiger’s population is currently about 500. In the nineteenth century three tiger species went extinct, the Bali, Caspian and Javan Tigers. The Siberian Tiger is predicted to go extinct by 2050 if no effective action is taken. Tigers are the largest of all wild cats and are renowned for their power and strength. There were once eight tiger subspecies, but three became extinct during the 20th century. Over the last hundred years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced overall tiger populations from hundreds of thousands to perhaps 3,000 to 5,000. Tigers are hunted as trophies and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. All five remaining tiger subspecies are endangered, and many protection programs are in place. Poaching is a reduced—but still very significant—threat to Siberian tigers.
The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the fifth most endangered animal in the world. The Sumatran Rhinoceros’ current population is around 300. The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the only Asian Rhinoceros with two horns and the only Rhinoceros with hair, having a coat of reddish brown fur. The Sumatran Rhinoceros was recently ranked as second on the top ten list, but “has since made a noticeable come-back”. As the smallest rhino, they weigh about 1,760 pounds, and grow to a height near 5 feet at the shoulders and 8 to 10 feet in length. The main threats to their survival in the wild include poaching and habitat encroachment by humans.
Cross River Gorilla
The Cross River Gorilla is the world’s most endangered primate. There are only about 300 left, making it sixth. The Cross River Gorilla lives only along the southern Cameroon-Nigeria border. The Cross River Gorilla is an excessively shy animal that was not known to exist until the 80’s. Illegal hunting for bushmeat and habitat loss threaten the future of Cross River gorillas. Until recently, many Cross River gorillas lived outside of protected areas, where they were highly susceptible to poaching. While the region where these gorillas dwell is known for unusually high levels of biodiversity, human population growth is placing increasing pressure on the area’s forests and wildlife. For instance, extensive agriculture and logging operations divide the gorilla’s habitat into isolated blocks.
The Mountain Gorilla is the second rarest known primate in the world. Estimates of population are 302-408 individuals left alive, earning it seventh place on the top ten. The Mountain Gorilla’s population suffered tremendous loss in the early 20th century due to big game hunters and fear due to misconceptions about its behavior. Many conservation initiatives are meant to aid mountain gorillas, and it is believed that their numbers may be steady or slowly increasing. Still they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching.
The Black Rhinoceros is one of two Rhinoceros Species in Africa, and one of five worldwide. With only a thousand individuals left of what was once 90,000, the Black Rhinoceros comes in as eighth on the list. The black rhino once roamed most of sub-Saharan Africa, but today is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by commercial demand. The Black Rhinoceros was hunted to near extinction early this century by poachers that wanted to sell its horn and people that were afraid of its aggressive reputation. Since then the Black Rhinoceros has made a tremendous come back but is still in the critically endangered zone. Habitat changes have also contributed to population declines, although this is a secondary threat after poaching.
In southern Zimbabwe, privately owned rhino conservancies have been invaded by landless people, reducing safe habitat for two large black rhino populations and increasing the risk of poaching and snaring.
The Vaquita is a species of porpoise that lives only in the Gulf of California, a stretch of water between Baja California and Mexico. The Vaquita comes in as the world’s ninth most endangered animal with only about 500 to 600 individuals left alive. The Vaquita’s population has been declining by a rate of 15-25% a year since 1945.The greatest threat to the remaining vaquita is incidental death caused by fishing gear. Vaquita are known to die in gillnets set for sharks, rays, mackerels and chano, as well as in illegal and occasionally permitted gillnet sets for an endangered fish called totoaba. They are also killed by commercial shrimp trawlers. It is believed that about 30 vaquitas are lost to these threats each year. Because there are so few vaquita left and they are confined to such a small area, they may also be vulnerable to climate changes that change food availability or habitat conditions in the Gulf of California.
Borneo Pygmy Elephant
The final animal on the top ten list, coming as number ten, is the Borneo Pygmy Elephant. The Borneo Pygmy Elephants population is about 1,200 and has been declining by 50% every fifty years since its discovery in 1841. Shrinking forests bring the elephants into more frequent contact with people, increasing human -elephant conflict in the region. New oil palm plantations in the area mean more human settlements, with some people setting illegal snares to catch small game. In the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, it is estimated that 20 percent of resident elephants have sustained injuries from these snares.