It is very difficult to write an article on the most endangered species in the world, because there are hundreds of species that are in danger, and that are in need of our awareness and our help. Habitats and environments are being destroyed every year through human developments, deforestation, pollution, and when greedy poachers hunt them for their rare, and therefore prized features; be it a hoof, or a horn, or skin.
As a result species are becoming extinct all of the time, and more still lie close to extinction, in endangered or critically endangered states. It is important that we aim to conserve the biodiversity of amazing life around us, before millions of years worth of evolution is lost to the sound of our machinery, as it tears down rainforests and sets fire to the land. The WWF have a list of endangered species, available on their website. At the top of that list lies 16 beautiful animals that are known to be critically endangered; that is, we risk losing them altogether if action is not taken immediately. All in a critical state, here are 10 of the most endangered species in the world.
The Saola has often been called the Asian unicorn, and is almost a mystical being itself given that scientists have only ever been able to record its existence five times, the first of which was in 1992; making it the first large mammal to be discovered by scientists in over 50 years. The Saola is only found in the Annamite mountains in Vietnam and Laos, and its habitat is becoming threatened by deforestation and infrastructure; encroaching on the Saola’s habitat, and giving poachers easier access to the forest.
The Black Rhino has long been known as an endangered mammal, and this was due to the arrival of European settlers in Africa in the early 20th century, who shot rhinos for food and sometimes for sport. The ivory horn of the Black Rhino is also a treasure for poachers, who killed 96 percent of the remaining rhino population between 1970 and 1992. The horn is very valuable and is believed in Asia to have medicinal properties. The price of the horn is higher than ever, but the species now has less than 5000 remaining members.
These great beasts contribute to a diverse and finely balanced eco-system and live alongside other endangered mammals such as Sumatran tigers, rhinos, and orangutang. Although the population stands at around 2500, the species became known as critically endangered in 2012, because nearly 70% of its habitat, and nearly 50% of its population was destroyed in just one generation; an absolutely alarming rate.
Cross River Gorillas
Scientists have been unable to find out exactly how many of these gorillas are left in the world, mostly because they inhabit rough territory, and are very wary of humans, who have encroached on their forest. The Cross River gorillas have been reduced to estimated numbers of around 200-300, largely due to deforestation for timber, agriculture and livestock. Conservation efforts involve trying to secure the forest in which they reside.
This subspecies of the leopard family can be found in the far-east reaches of Russia, in temperate forests, although with only 30 individual leopards left they can be almost impossible hard to spot. The main threat to this now elusive cat, is illegal poaching. The Amur leopard is hunted for its spotted fur, which can fetch up to $1000 on the black market. Prey shortage is also a problem, another result of poaching activities.
Hawksbills are so called for their pointed beaks which they use to extract sponges from crevices in the reefs. They live mostly in tropical oceans, and have become critically endangered for a variety of reasons, including over excessive egg collecting, coastal development, and pollution. The main cause however, is the wildlife trade. The colorful shells are often sold on markets, and to tourists, especially in Eastern Asia.
The Javan Rhino is the closest of all rhino species to extinction, with only 35 individuals remaining, all living under protection at Ujung Kulon National Park, Indonesia. Poaching has always been a problem for all rhinos, and the Javan is no different. The last wild Javan Rhino was killed in Vietnam. Conservationists fear that the species has become too small already, and may not be genetically diverse enough to survive.
South China Tiger
The population of the South China Tiger has been under attack for decades. It was estimated to be around 4000 in the early 1950’s, down to just 30-80 tigers in 1996. Hunting thinned out the number of tigers and was legal up until 1979, as they were considered dangerous pests. Now, there is not enough habitat to support them, and scientists consider them functionally extinct in the wild; that is, they have not been seen for many years.
The smallest porpoise in the world, this fascinating creature was not discovered until 1958, and lives in the Gulf of Mexico, though it is very elusive and hard to see. Less than 300 Vaquita are thought to remain in the wild, and the main threat to their existence is by-catch, where they are trapped in the nets of fishing boats, by accident.