The biodiversity on planet Earth currently stands at about 30 million animal species with new ones being discovered every day. However, as new species are continuously being discovered, the species that go extinct or are at the risk of extinction far outpace the newly discovered. Given that animals at risk of extinction are spread across the world, it is critical that we disseminate information on how to slow down or reverse these risks. The classic definition of an endangered species is one of an animal whose numbers have dropped so low that is nearly extinct. The causes of the drop in the numbers of these animals are varied and range from being hunted for food, their coats, fur, oil, horns, and food among several other uses that man finds for them. Nonetheless, if we banded together and put in place policies to protect endangered animals, educated people on the importance of protecting endangered species, and implemented severe penalties for violators, then perhaps we could win the war against extinction.
The Metrics for How Much a Species is endangered
1.How threatened their habitat is
2.The genetic diversity of the population
3.How many threats to their survival the species has to deal with
4.The length of their reproductive cycle and how long it would take to replenish the population if breeding pairs were available
5.The geographical spread of individuals – the more spread out the better the probability that some individuals could survive a catastrophic wiping out of the population
First things first though, which are the most endangered animal species in the world:
There are only about 300-440 Mountain gorillas left in the wild making the species highly endangered. Mountain gorillas are some of the most aggressive animals, which has had a detrimental effect on their numbers. People take them to be violent and a risk to their safety making them a target. While conservation initiatives have succeeded in changing attitudes, the numbers have not yet rebounded to take them off the endangered list.
One of the most beautiful animals that many people will never get to see, the Malayan tiger. This species is highly endangered with only about 340 Malayan and 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Even though the tiger is a very popular animal, the high demand for medicine made from tiger parts is big in Asia. As such, tigers are one of the biggest victims of poaching. With their habitat rapidly being destroyed the future of the tiger looks bleak, particularly in countries such as China where it has not been seen in about a quarter of a decade.
The Vaquita is a type of endangered porpoise that many people across the world have never heard of. At only about 30 animals left in the wild, it is the rarest marine mammal whose future looks very bleak. A resident of the Californian Gulf coast, they have been most impacted through the activities of illegal fishing where they are frequently the victims of drowning in gill nets.
The rhino is that one animal that everyone wants to see on safari though over the years, it is becoming a rare privilege. Many species of rhino have gone extinct or become critically endangered due to being the target of poaching. The biggest threat to rhinos is traditional medicine which purports to make aphrodisiacs from the rhino horn making it an item in high demand, particularly in Asia. Black rhinos are deemed critically endangered having been brought back from the brink. Similarly, the Javan rhino only has 60 individuals still living in the wild making it one of the most critically endangered species. There are also about 220 Sumatran rhinos left.
The beautiful Amur leopard is critically endangered with only about 84 individuals estimated to be still alive in the wild. It has been the target of poachers who kill the animal for its beautiful fur, which is then sold for $500 to $1000 on the black market. Moreover, the Amur Leopard also suffers from the depletion of prey species such as hares, deer, and sika, which are hunted by humans for cash and food.
There are between 10,000 – 25,000 blue whales left in the wild. Like many other marine creatures, the fall in the number of blue whales is as a result of toxic and polluted habitats. Many whales have also been victims of drowning from being entangled in fishing nets and other gear. Even commercial whaling was brought to a stop, blue whales are still endangered given that their prey such as krill is threatened by habitat loss and climate change.
Just like chimps, the Bonobos are the closest living relatives of humans with up to 98.7% similarity in DNA. At between 10,000 and 50, 000 the bonobos, which live only in the tropical forests south of the River Congo of the Democratic of Congo, are endangered. The biggest threat to the bonobos is the loss of habitat due to the conflict in the Congo that has led to the destruction of forests and a rise in poaching.
The Galapagos Penguin
The Galapagos penguin is a very rare bird that can only be found in the Galapagos or the north of the equator. While the exact numbers are not known, their population has fallen significantly due to climate change and pollution. Additionally, penguins have also had to deal with the introduction of predator species such as cats into their habitats. Climate change has at some point wiped out up to 77% of the Galapagos penguin population, resulting in a weak gene pool.
The exact numbers of the Saola is not known though it is one of the most vulnerable, distinctive, and rare species. Nonetheless, experts place their numbers at no less than a few dozen and at a maximum no more than a few hundred. The biggest threat to the Saola is habitat loss as infrastructural development, plantations, and agriculture take over huge tracts of their habitat. With fragmented habitats, the Saola find themselves increasingly restricted to smaller spaces which severely impacts on genetic diversity.
Giant Chinese Salamander
The world’s biggest amphibian is also its most endangered amphibian species. It is a huge animal that can grow as large as 6 feet long and lives in the forest areas of mainland China. The biggest threat to the Giant Chinese Salamander is humans as the Chinese consider the Salamander food. The animal is frequently hunted down and killed for food.
The Mexican Catarina pupfish is technically already extinct, given that hardly any have been seen in the world for years. However, efforts by conservationists prevented total extinction of the species as the few members of the species are now protected in several aquariums until the population rises again.
The California Condor is mainly found in Southern Utah and northern Arizona though it is named the California Condor. At only about 400 individual birds left, the bird is critically endangered. However, there is hope for the birds which typically live for about 60 years.
While the number of species being added into the endangered and critically endangered species is always growing, there is still hope of saving some species. As humans, we pose the greatest danger to animal species through our activities in poaching, climate change, and destruction of habitats. However, all is not lost as the implementation of some policies could turn the situation around. Some policies that have been proven to work include severe fines for poaching, commitment to climate change initiatives by governments, taking active measures to reduce habitat loss by classifying certain areas as off bounds for human development, initiatives to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, and a ban on the trade in endangered species parts.