The Loneliest Tortoise:
Lonesome George is thought to be the only remaining giant tortoise from the island of Pinta in the Galapagos Islands. George was taken into captivity in 1972 and, in order to preserve the species, the hunt was on to find him a suitable mate. Over the years, George has shown little interest in mating with tortoises from nearby islands, but there may still be hope. In July 2008, Ecuador’s Galapagos national Park announced that a female tortoise of a similar species, who has been George’s companion since 1993, has laid some eggs. So George may become a father at the grand old age of 80.
The Black Rhino:
In 1960, there were 100,000 black rhinos in Africa. Today, there are only 3,725. Rhino are killed for the large horns on their foreheads which people grind up and use as medicine. In Asia, especially in China, people think the rhino horn reduces fever, although chemicals tests performed show that the horn absolutely no proven medicinal qualities.
Baiji, also known as Chinese river dolphins, live the Yangtze River system in China. They are thought to be the most endangered member of the family of animals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. The last documented sighting of a Baiji was in 2002, but when experts searched for them again in 2006, none were found. So this beautiful, intelligent mammal is now described as ‘possible extinct’.
The Giant Panda:
Giant pandas are among the rarest mammals in the world. There are now only about 1,600 left living in the wild. Pandas are sometimes killed for their lovely black and white fur. However, the main reason pandas are dying out is because forests of bamboo, their favourite food, are being destroyed.
The Chinese government has set aside special reserves for the pandas, where they can live and breed in safety.
The tiger is the biggest of all the wild cats and possibly the most magnificent. People hunt it for its coats, its teeth and even its whiskers, which some people think will bring them good luck. But the worst threat to the tiger’s survival is the loss of its habitat. There are thought to be about 4,000 tigers left in the wild, mainly in China, India, Russia and Indonesia.
The Beluga Sturgeon:
This enormous fish can grow to be over 5 metres long and is considered to be one of the most valuables fish in the world. Sturgeons are killed not for their flesh, but for precious eggs that the females carry. Beluga eggs are called ‘caviar’, which is very expensive. Selling over £10 for 10 grams, caviar is a delicacy costs about three times as much as silvers.