BRITISH BROADCASTER and naturalist Sir David Attenborough once asked: “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
According to a study published in the journal Nature, 41 percent of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction, while 26 percent of mammal species and 13 percent of birds are similarly threatened.
“Habitat destruction, pollution or overfishing either kills off wild creatures and plants or leaves them badly weakened,” Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, told The Guardian. “The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors.”
Poached for its beautiful, spotted fur, the Amur Leopard is possibly the rarest and most endangered big cat in the world. Found along the border areas between the Russian Far East and northeast China, this species also faces habitat destruction and a loss of prey animals — i.e., food — due to poaching. Today, around 30 individual Amur leopards remain in the wild.
Mountain gorillas are found in the Virunga Mountains that border Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Poaching, destruction of habitat, disease, and charcoal production that destroys gorilla habitat has left around 880 individuals struggling to survive.
Greater bamboo lemur
Found in southeastern Madagascar, the greater bamboo lemur is the most endangered lemur species in Madagascar with as few as 60 believed to still exist in the wild and no more than 150 in captivity.
Climate change, illegal logging, lemur hunting and severe depletion of bamboo mean this species might not survive much longer.
The largest sea turtle species and one of the most migratory, the Leatherback turtle population has severely declined in recent years due to overharvesting, fisheries bycatch, plastic ingestion, egg poaching, habitat loss and expansion of coastal development that continues to disturb and destroy turtle nesting beaches.
Also known as Amur tigers, Siberian tigers are the world’s largest cats. But accordint to the WWF, there are only up to about 450 of these majestic, but endangered animals left in the world. Worse, the Amur tiger’s habitat is now restricted to two provinces in the Russian Far East and small plots along the border areas of China, and possibly North Korea.
And while it is a protected species, illegal logging and poaching are dwindling their numbers. Tiger farming is driving the demand for their pelts and meat on the black market.
“Things such as tiger bone wine represent a new asset class for wealthy investors – particularly for those who have become disillusioned with real-estate and stock markets,” Judy Mills, author of the new book Blood of the Tiger, recently told Nature World News. “These investors are banking on extinction. If tigers disappear from the wild, those parts and products… that investment will become priceless.”
Of all the species that have populated Earth at some time over the past 3.5 billion years, more than 95 percent have vanished. The Earth has previously gone through five mass extinction events (potentially 6), and with climate change and human influence being immediate threats; the aforementioned list of species and a host of others will likely vanish in the near future.
Yangtze finless porpoise
Known as the “giant panda of the water,” these clever creatures are one of the most famous species found in China’s Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia.
Due to overfishing, decrease in food supply, pollution and changing conditions caused by dams, only 1,000 to 1,800 individuals remain. The finless porpoise’s close cousin, the Baiji dolphin, has already been declared functionally extinct due to human activity.
As the world’s rarest marine animal, the vaquita is on the brink of extinction with fewer than 100 individuals left in the world.
Found in the upper Gulf of California, one out of every five vaquita gets entangled and drowned in gillnets that are intended to catch another critically endangered species, the totoaba, whose swim bladders are illegally sold for about $4,000 a pound.
As long as this illegal international trade thrives, the vaquita population will continue to decline.