14 Wild Animal Species You Never Knew Were Endangered
Just because you see them at the zoo doesn’t mean they’re doing all right in the wild.
There are three species of orangutans: Bornean, ones that prefer the ground over the trees; Sumatran, which have longer facial hair and develop closer bonds with each other; and Tapanuli, which inhabit only a single forest in Sumatra. A century ago, their global population was more than 230,000. Now there are about 104,700 Bornean (critically endangered status), 7,500 Sumatran (critically endangered status), and only 800 Tapanuli orangutans left. But there is still hope because these 16 incredible animals came back from the brink of extinction!
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has put some giraffes at a critically endangered status. There are only 4,000 Kordofan and Nubian giraffes left, according to the IUCN. The reticulated giraffe is also listed as endangered. The giraffe population has declined primarily due to loss of habitat, civil unrest, and poaching. Some giraffes are killed just for their tails, which are considered status symbols in parts of Africa.
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All six tiger species are endangered, with Sumatran and South China tigers at a critically endangered status. Some scientists even consider the South China tiger to be “functionally extinct” since it hasn’t been seen in the wild in more than 25 years. The main reasons for their population decline are poaching and destroyed habitats, as humans clear forests to gather timber and build roadways. Only about 3,890 tigers currently live in the wild. Check out these common “facts” about animals that you have all wrong.
Seven hummingbird species, all found in the Americas, are endangered, primarily because of deforestation. The chestnut-bellied hummingbird has 600 to 1,700 mature individuals, and there are fewer than 300 sapphire-bellied hummingbirds left.
Black rhinos are critically endangered, with slightly more than 5,000 left in the world. The rest have succumbed primarily to poaching and illegal trading for their horns. Between 1960 and 1995, hunters killed 98 percent of Africa’s black rhinos. But numbers have been steadily increasing thanks to conservation efforts. Don’t miss the 9 newly discovered animal species you never knew existed.
As few as 300 North Atlantic right whales remain in the wild. In fact, six out of the 13 great whale species are endangered. Pollution is a major threat for these aquatic giants, plus, according to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 1,000 whales are killed every year for commercial purposes.
War hurts more than just humans. Civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made bonobos more vulnerable to poachers and continues to destroy their forest homes. It’s unclear how many bonobos there are—probably 15,000 to 20,000—but scientists believe their population will continue to decline over the next 50 years. Conservation efforts are necessary to make sure that they don’t go the way of these animals that have gone extinct in the last 100 years.
An estimated 52 parrot species are marked as endangered or critically endangered, according to the IUCN. The Cape parrot is just one of the many parrot species in dire danger of extinction in South Africa. In fact, this parrot bears the dubious title of Africa’s rarest parrot because fewer than 2,000 of them are left. The massive deforestation of the yellowwood forests, the Cape parrot’s home, has played a large role in their rapidly declining numbers. Steve Boyes, the scientific director for the Wild Bird Trust, told National Geographic that South Africa needs to protect at least 18 percent of its indigenous yellowwood forests to give the Cape parrots a chance at rebuilding their population.
The main threat to Asian elephants, one of the most intelligent animals, is their shrinking habitat. As the human population grows, people invade their land to build roads and railway tracks. Elephants in Myanmar are at an especially high risk for being captured and traded or used illegally in the tourist industry. It is unknown just how many elephants are left on the entire continent, but experts estimate numbers could be fewer than 50,000. It’s sobering but important to learn about these animals that could go extinct within your lifetime.
North American bumblebee
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The Bombus fraternus is a bumblebee species found in the United States, commonly known as the Southern Plains bumblebee. The buzzing bee’s abundance has shrunk nearly 86 percent when compared with historical records dating back to 1805. Scientists estimate that this species could potentially go extinct in the next 90 years, if the same rate of decline occurs. Habitat loss and pesticide use are two of the main culprits for the endangered status of this important pollinator.