Zoology

There are Thousands of Animals Verging on Extinciton



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Animals become endangered for a variety of reasons from poaching to habitat destruction to the introduction of competitive foreign species. There are thousands of animals on the verge of extinction today and some already extinct in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) works to address the issues faced by earth's plant and animal species, cataloging and ranking each as Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, and Extinct. There are currently 2,264 animals classified as Critically Endangered most with declining populations. Many of the animals may already be extinct. The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) has been in the spotlight for several years, getting attention as an Endangered species. Despite efforts, their population is continuing to decline and they will soon meet the threshold to be considered Critically Endangered. Unfortunately, there are many, many animals more endangered than the popular panda.

Ivory-billed woodpecker

Many believe the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) to be extinct. There have been no confirmed encounters with the bird since 1987, but there have been reported sightings in Florida and Arkansas since 2004. Some believe there may also be a small population in Cuba. If it is not extinct, the population is likely very spread out, dooming it to extinction in the near future.

Amur leopard

The Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus ssp. orientalis) is an extremely rare subspecies of leopard once found in eastern Russia, China, and Korea. It is extinct in China and Korea already. In 2007 there were only 14 to 20 adults and 5 or 6 cubs in the Primorye region of Russia. At most there are around 40 individuals now. The few left continue to have numerous threats: poaching, climate change, and expanding civilization into their already limited habitat.

Leatherback sea turtle

It is difficult to evaluate the status of a lot of aquatic animals. Sea turtles like the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) are assessed based on reproductive and nesting activity, which they do on beaches. Though they have a worldwide distribution there has been a huge decline in nesting overall. They were thought to have a stable population at least in the Pacific Ocean, but they seem to have declined there as well. Recent years have seen a slight increase in nesting around Costa Rica, but still overall, they are declining. The main threats to the species are accidental capture in commercial fishing nets, pollution, poaching and egg collection. In some instances, up to 95% of clutches are removed from nests, which has put a major dent in populations.

Western lowland gorilla

Over three generations the population of the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. gorilla) has decreased by more than 80 percent and they were moved to Critically Endangered status in 2007. High levels of hunting and disease have contributed to nearly wiping out this gorilla in most places. Even in protected areas, poachers are continuing to kill these animals. Those not being poached are dying of ebola, while they already had extremely low reproductive rates.

Chinese giant salamander

The Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus) is the largest species of amphibian and it has fallen victim to over-exploitation for human consumption. It was once widespread throughout China, living around all of the major rivers, but it experienced a rapid decline and only a few populations are known. China declared it a protected species and they are being captive bred with some success, but mainly to meet the commercial demand to eat them. The wild populations are now being impacted by water pollution.

Red wolf

Extinct in the wild by 1980 due to habitat loss and hunting, the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) was reintroduced in 1987 to eastern North Carolina. It began relatively successfully until the wolves began mating with coyotes, which moved into the wolves habitat. Hybridization is proving to be the greatest threat to the reintroduced population and if it continues, non-hybridized Red Wolves will be extinct in the wild again. The current wild population is very low, making them Critically Endangered. Around 145 are in captivity in various facilities around the United States. 

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