Of all the species that have ever lived on Earth, over 99% of them have gone extinct. Even today, some of our planet’s most incredible and unique animals teeter on the edge of elimination. Whether it be from over hunting, environmental destruction, or even by introducing invasive predators, we humans have to take a lot of the the blame for the dangers faced by animals today. Luckily, many people have stood up and formed environmental or wildlife conservation groups; however, even with their good work, here are 25 Endangered Animals That We May Lose This Century.
Feature: City of Albuquerque via Flickr
Endemic to the to Amur River basin in the Russian Far East and Manchuria, the Amur leopard has adapted to the harsh conditions of the cold, temperate forests of its home. Unfortunately, the thick, beautiful coats of these big cats are highly valued among fur markets, sometimes selling for as much as $1000 each. Although the trade and selling of leopard skins is outlawed around the world, lack of enforcement and regulation means that many of these creatures are hunted an killed illegally each year.
Cross River Gorilla
A subspecies of the western gorilla, the Cross River gorilla is often confused for its much more populous cousin: the western lowland gorilla. As their name suggests, this great ape populates the Cross River basin along the Cameroon-Nigeria border; however, deforestation and human development has shrunk the number of gorillas to roughly 250 animals by 2016.
Pygmy Three-toed Sloth
The pygmy three-toed sloth is the smallest and rarest member of the sloth family, found only on the isolated Caribbean island of Isla Escudo de Veraguas. With a body suited for climbing as well as swimming, the pygmy sloth is well suited for life among the mangrove forests it calls home. Still, like many tree dwelling animals, the species is at risk to the deforestation and destruction of their habitat.
Closely related to the North American cougar, this large cat roamed across the Southeastern United States until the late 1600’s when human development began to encroach into the panther’s habitat. Left with roughly 5% of its historic range, this panther hasn’t been seen outside of southern tip of Florida in decades and is today known as the state’s official animal, although it is one of the rarest creatures on Earth.
Tarzan’s chameleon is a medium-sized chameleon found only in a few small, fractured rain forests in the Alaotra-Mangoro region of Madagascar. It was only recently discovered in 2009, and because of the increased clearing and deforestation of their endemic habitat, the lizard has been classified as critically endangered. Luckily, a current movement attempting to turn their home into a reserve forest and the formation of new breeding programs could be enough to bring the species back to a stable population.
This giant, flightless, ground parrot is found only in New Zealand and is often referred to as the owl parrot for its thick body, owlish face, and nocturnal behavior. Once common across New Zealand and its surrounding islands, the kakapo has become increasingly rare since colonists introduced predators such as cats, rats, and ferrets into the ecosystem. Currently, there are only 123 surviving birds in the world, but due to successful breeding programs and increased awareness, that number is expected to increase.
Sometimes known as scaly anteaters, pangolin are strange armadillo-like creatures with large keratin scales along their backs and sticky tongues for eating ants and termites. One of the rarest, the Chinese pangolin, has a habitat ranging throughout southeastern China. Unfortunately, deforestation and poaching has taken its toll on the population, and it is expected that hundreds of thousands or more of these unique animals are killed every year.
The Tamaraw is a small wild buffalo found only on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. Prior to the 20th Century, the Tamaraw population numbered in the tens of thousands; however, by the 1960’s hunting and development had dramatically reduced the Tamaraw population to fewer than one hundred animals. Since then, conservation efforts have had varying levels of success, and the population of this rare animal is now thought to number anywhere from 30 to 200.
The largest woodpecker in North America, the ivory-billed woodpecker occupied much of the southern and eastern United States until the 1800’s, when rapid American expansion destroyed much of their habitat and decimated their population. By the middle of the 2oth Century, the bird was expected to be completely extinct; however, recent documentations of the woodpecker in Florida and Arkansas lead some ornithologists to believe that remnants of the species still live today.
A subspecies of the Asian elephant, the Sumatran elephant once roamed the Indonesian island of Sumatra in its entirety. Unfortunately, human development on the island has led to the severe encroachment and destruction of the elephants’ habtiat. In the 1980’s, the Lampung province at the southern end of the island was home to an estimated 12 distinct elephant herds. However, a recount in 2002 found only 3 remained.
Yangtze Giant Softshell
The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in existence and, unfortunately, is also one of the most rare. Previously found in great numbers along the Yangtze River in China, habitat loss, pollution, and hunting have slowly whittled away at the population, leaving only three living turtles in the world. Multiple attempts have been made to impregnate the sole remaining female of the species, and though none have been successful as of yet, scientists and zoologists have not given up hope in bringing back the species.
If you are enjoying this list, take a look at 25 Most Endangered Species On Earth.
Southern Bluefin Tuna
Reaching lengths of 8.2 feet and weighing over 550 pounds when fully grown, the southern bluefin tuna is one of the largest open ocean fish in the world. Once found across the southern hemisphere in vast schools, extreme overfishing in the mid to late 20th century has reduced the population of the bluefin tuna by over 85%. Many countries continue to catch the fish commercially to this day, but thanks to strict regulation and breeding farms, there may still be a chance for the species to recover.
This large and powerful eagle is endemic to the Philippines, the only place in the world it can be found living in the wild. It was classified as critically endangered in 2010, due largely in part to the urbanization of its natural habitat, and it is estimated that anywhere from 180 to 500 live in the wild today. In an effort to protect the remaining birds, the Filipino government declared the eagle to be the country’s national bird, and announced that disturbing or killing a wild eagle would be met with heavy fines and a minimum of 12 years in jail.
Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey
Endemic to the Khau Ca Forest in northern Vietnam, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is the largest monkey in southeastern Asia as well as one of the rarest primates in the world. Thought to be extinct for most of the 20th Century, a small population was rediscovered in 1992 in the Tuyên Quang province of Vietnam. Although the species remains at risk from illegal logging, poaching, and the exploitation of their natural habitat, monkey populations have been slowly increasing, and conservationists hope the species will soon see a full comeback.
Also known as the Gooty sapphire, the metallic tarantula, and the peacock tarantula, this large spider was first discovered in the small town of Gooty in south-central India. Today, it is only known to reside inside of a small forest between Nandyal and Giddalur, over 40 miles away from the location of its discovery. Despite being so rare in the wild, the tarantula has bred well in captivity and is a popular pet for spider enthusiasts.
Once wildly treasured for their ornately beautiful shells, the hawksbill sea turtle has been hunted by humans dating as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Although most countries have since placed a strict ban on any and all selling and trafficking of tortoiseshell material, the hawksbill turtle’s habitat remains at high risk of damage from commercial fishing and oil drilling in and around the tropical waters of the world.
Once found throughout Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and even India, the Javan rhino is now confined to the Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java, Indonesia. With an estimated population of under 60 animals, the Javan rhino is the most at-risk member of the rhino family and one of the rarest large land mammals in the world.
Found only in the Llanos de Moxos region of Bolivia, the blue-throated macaw is a remarkably beautiful and rare member of the parrot family. Over the course of the 20th Century, many wild macaws were captured and sold into the pet trade, devastating the species’ population. Although the illegal capturing and selling of the birds ceased in the 1990’s, the population has yet to recover, and today, it is thought that fewer than 400 blue-throated macaws still live in their natural habitat.
Only recently discovered in 1992, the elusive saola is one of the rarest and most mysterious creatures on the planet. Found deep in the forests of the Annamite mountain range in Vietnam and Laos, this forest bovine is thought to be closely related to domesticated cattle. Unfortunately, unlike cattle, they have adapted poorly to habitat loss from urbanization, and all previous attempts to capture and breed the species have resulted in failure.
Although it has been colloquially referred to as the “walking fish,” this rare aquatic creature is actually an amphibian and is a close relative of the tiger salamander. Native only to Lake Xochimilco in central Mexico, the wild population of axolotls was put under great strain by the growth of Mexico City, and an extensive search in 2013 found that the species was effectively extinct in the wild. Despite this, these animals do quite well in captivity, and they have even become a popular novelty pet to many.
Often seen as a pest or a threat to livestock, the red wolf was hunted nearly to extinction in the early 20th Century. Once common in much of the Southeastern United States, today it is expected that fewer than 45 wolves still run wild on protected reservations in North Carolina, while roughly 200 others are kept in captive breeding facilities. The US Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to one day reintroduce the red wolf to wildlife refuges in Florida and the rest of the east coast; however, the illegal hunting and killing of wolves continues to be an obstacle to the species’ survival.
Smaller and less aggressive than its North American cousin, the Chinese alligator is endemic to the wetlands of eastern China. It is widely considered to be the most endangered crocodilian in the world, with an estimated 120 alligators still left in the wild. Luckily, there are many Chinese alligators still living in captivity, making the species a candidate for reintroduction in the near future.
Although far from being the prettiest bird, the California condor is one of the oldest and largest birds in North America with a maximum wingspan of nearly ten feet. The California condor was officially declared extinct in the wild in 1987; however, after years of captive breeding, the condors were slowly reintroduced to large wildlife conservation areas in one of the largest and most expensive conservation projects in America. There are currently thought to be about 500 wild condors in Southern California and Arizona.
The addax is an African Antelope native to the Sahara desert. Severely threatened by overhunting and the destruction of their habitat via oil installations, most addax now live in zoos or private collections with very few thought to be left in the wild. In May of 2016, an extensive survey found only 3 wild addax living in Niger, and possibly in the world.
Interested to know what other animals have been on the endangered list? Check out 25 Endangered Animals Our Next Generation Might Not See.
The smallest and perhaps most elusive member of the cetacean family, the Vaquita are very closely related to the harbor porpoise, although marine biologists have had very few opportunities to learn anything more about them. Found only in the northernmost part of the Gulf of California, the Vaquita population is at high risk of coming in contact with commercial fishing gear, especially gillnets and shrimp trawlers which kill on average 30 Vaquita each year. As of 2016, it is suspected that fewer than 50 living Vaquita remain in the world.
Photos: 25. Elger Lindgren/wikimedia commons (panoramio: closing), 24. (Fair Use) © 2008 Pierre Fidenci , 23. Christian Mehlfuhrer/wikimedia commons, 22. US Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr, 21. Sebastian Gehring/wikimedia commons, 20. jidanchaomian via Flickr, 18. Gregg Yan/wikimedia commons, 16. vincentraal via Flickr, 15. Phuongcacanh at Vietnamese Wikipedia, 13. The Pageman via Flickr, 12. Quyet Le via Flickr, 11. Soren Rafn via envfor.nic.in via wikimedia commons, 10. J. Petersen/wikimedia commons, 9. Jo Oh/wikimedia commons, 8. Dick Daniels/wikimedia commons, 7. Global Wildlife Conservation via Flickr, 5. US Fish & Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr, 4. City of Albuquerque via Flickr, 3. Don Graham via Flickr, 2. Haytem93/wikimedia commons