Every year an area of forest as big as the United Kingdom is lost to deforestation. Catastrophic to the world’s animals, this also adds to global warming which in turn does further damage to the world’s habits, and the creatures great and small which call them home. Each of the six groups of animals (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, invertebrates, and fish) are being damaged by human activity, with nearly a quarter of the world’s mammal species and a third of all amphibians at risk of extinction.
Although many animals like the North African Elephant and the Atlas Bear are now lost forever, it is possible for many of the creatures on this list to be saved. It is of the utmost importance that governments, scientists, conservationists, and the general public work together to reduce and reverse the problems that face the animals we share this planet with.
10. Sumatran Tiger
With an estimated 300 of these left in the wild as a result of poaching, deforestation, and human conflict in their natural habitat in Indonesia, the Sumatran Tiger is one of the species likely to become instinct in the wild within the next few decades.
These numbers make the recent events at London’s Zoo in October 2013 all the more tragic; the zookeepers were over the moon when – for the first time in 17 years – a Sumatran cub was born. However, catastrophe struck when the two week old, unnamed tiger drowned in the pool of the recently opened multi-million pound enclosure.
Things have turned round at London Zoo in the last few weeks, with the same tigress giving birth to triplets. Steps have been taken to ensure that the past doesn’t repeat itself, and the cubs are now under 24 hour supervision to protect some of the rarest animals on earth.
9. Cross River Gorilla
Like the Sumatran Tiger, the Cross River Gorilla is down to under 300 animals, making it the world’s rarest gorilla. The species is found in the hilly rainforest found on the border between Nigeria and the Cameroon. Because there are so few animals remaining in the wild one of the main problems facing the gorillas is a lack of genetic diversity, though they are also threatened by deforestation, fires, and hunters.
All western gorillas are critically endangered, but the Cross River subspecies is under the greatest threat. The Wildlife Conservation Society recently released a report detailing the $10.5m, five year plan which will hopefully stabilise and even grow the population of these animals.
These small, dark grey porpoises life solely in the Gulf of California. As a result of entanglement in fishing gear these creatures have reached an all time low of around 200 individuals in the wild. They tend to move in pairs, or groups of up to 10, but are incredibly elusive and as a result are rarely observed. This means that little is known about their life-cycle, mating rituals, and social structures. However, it is thought that they can live for up to 22 years, and are capable of producing a calf every two years, though this is speculative.
In addition to being under threat from purposeful and accidental fishing, the population of Vaquitas is also being diminished by pesticide usage and changes in the amount of water flowing into the Gulf due to the damming of the Colorado River.
7. White-Headed Langur
It is estimated that in the last three generations the population of these primates has been reduced by as much as 80%. As the above photograph shows, the monkeys can be identified by their adult coats of dark chocolate brown which contrasts spectacularly with the golden orange fur of infants. The adults are adorned with a “cape-like area of longer fur across the shoulders,” and have slim hands and feet with shorter thumbs than most primates.
The average social group consists of four or five animals, and lives in forests of an elevation of around 70-100m. Groups move from sleeping place to sleeping place, spending one or two nights in each cave before moving on to find more fresh shoots, flowers and bark to eat.
6. North Pacific Right Whale
The usual way to figure out an animal’s age after its death is by examining its teeth. As the Right Whale has no teeth, they are difficult to age (though biologists sometimes use ear bones or eye lenses to figure out how old they are). However, these 70 tonne, 50 foot whales are thought to live for as long as 50-100 years. The remaining estimated 500 North Pacific right whales can be found the Pacific Ocean, between 20° and 60° latitude.
The reasons for the reduction in numbers is unknown. In the 1960s there was an illegal whaling industry operating out of the Soviet Union, which would certainly have impacted the population, but most scientists are unsure about the exact problems the whales face in the 21st century.
5. Javan Rhinoceros
With no more than 50 Javan Rhinos left, it is the rarest large mammal on this planet. The remaining animals are posed on the brink of extinction, and with none left in captivity the next few years might see the species disappear for good. Unlike many of the Javan’s bush-dwelling relatives, this rhino requires a rainforest environment with plenty of water to wallow in. They are solitary animals, except when mating or with young, and are thought to live for up to 40 years.
Though the animals used to roam north-eastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, they’re now limited to a small area if Indonesia. This tiny population appears to be stable, but gives no signs of growing.
4. Amur Leopard
The world’s rarest big cat is the Amur Leopard, with as few as 45 remaining in the wild. These beautiful animals live in a tiny area on the border between between Russia and China. This small habitat is problematic, as 20% of the area is regularly affected by forest fire. Like many of the animals on this list the size of the remaining population means that the species is suffering from a limited gene pool as well as poaching and loss of habitat.
The leopard’s coat is highly sought after due to its distinctive patterning, but it is also hunted for its bones which are used in traditional Chinese medicines. The WWF is tentatively hopeful about the future of these animals, with an increase in numbers of 22% between 2007 and 2013.
3. Northern Sportive Lemur
The Northern Sportive Lemur is so named because of the boxer stance it assumes when threatened. Exactly how this is meant to protect a creature which only grows to about 28cm tall is unknown, but the name stuck. This small grey primate lives in the northern area of Madagascar, where it uses its fleshy hand and foot pads to leap from branch to branch. Although it mainly eats leaves, it will happily supplement its diet with berries or flowers. The Sportive Lemur’s natural predator is a member of the boa species, which hunts the lemurs when they sleep. This little guy has become severely endangered, largely due to aggressive predators like the boa and wide-scale deforestation for charcoal production.
Next to nothing is known about the creature known as the Asian Unicorn, which was only discovered two decades ago, and has only been categorically documented on four occasions. When it was first identified in 1992 it was the first new large mammal to be discovered in over half a century.
The average animal is 33 inches high at the shoulder, and has 20cm long, twisted horns. It is a relative of the bovine and antelope species, and is found in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos. There are likely to be less than 750 remaining creatures, and none currently exist in captivity. Although it was only discovered recently, it is still thought to be very close to extinction.
1. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
At 20 inches in length and with a 30 inch wingspan, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the world’s largest woodpecker. It is also critically endangered, and possibly extinct. There have been no definitive sightings of the bird in years, and as a result in December 2008, the Nature Conservancy announced a reward of $50,000 to anyone who could lead a project biologist to a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
There have been several reported sightings of the bird in the last decade, which have resulted in extensive expeditions into areas of Louisiana and Arkansas. Although no DNA was collected, and no photographs taken, a recording of the bird’s distinctive knocking was recorded in the Pearl River region in 2002. Many ornithologists remain highly sceptical of the various pieces of possible evidence relating to the bird.