The World's Most Endangered Species
Animals living in distant places, from the Sumatran elephant to the sea turtle to the saola, may not seem like they have an effect on our daily lives, but the truth is that they do. We are all one interconnected web on this planet
There are currently over 16,000 endangered species in the world, and the majority of the threats are caused by humans, be it habitat destruction, deforestation, hunting, or illegal poaching.
While it doesn’t seem like we can do much on an individual level, there are other everyday efforts to consider. Apart from symbolically adopting every endangered species, you can recycle, reduce your carbon footprint, buy sustainable products, and cut plastic out of your life.
The future of these animals rests in our generation’s hands, so we must do our part to help save both the environment and the innocent species living within it. Let’s step it up people!
Did you know?
It’s not all doom and gloom! Some species have made amazing comebacks, like the bald eagle, the gray wolf, the American alligator, the humpback whale, and the white rhino. Here’s to hoping all of the endangered species can make comebacks of their own.
Animals living in distant places, from the Sumatran elephant to the sea turtle to the saola, may not seem like they have an effect on our daily lives, but the truth is that they do. We are all one interconnected web on this planet; all the species on it, from those faraway to those in our backyards, are necessary to keep the world spinning. The intricate food chains and webs are like a Jenga game—take out just one crucial species, and the entire system may collapse. The majority of extinct, endangered, and vulnerable species are caused by human threats, which is why we, as individuals, need to do our part to save the environment and its animals each and every day. From symbolic adoptions of animals to saying no to plastic, there’s plenty we can all do to save these species from going extinct.
1. Rambunctious Rhinos
Less than 30,000 rhinos are still living in the world today. Hunting, poaching, and loss of habitat are the main culprits for the reduction in rhino populations. Sadly, rhino horns are still illegally poached and trafficked, despite being against the law since 1977. The black rhino, who lives in Africa, is critically endangered, with only about 5,000 left. In Asia, the Javan and Sumatran rhinos are also critically endangered. Want some good news? The southern white rhino, once thought to be extinct, is now a thriving population in protected sanctuaries in Africa. How can we help the rhinos? You can donate to Helping Rhinos, an organization that has an anti-poaching patrol and helps care for orphaned rhinos, or you can adopt a rhino. While you don’t get to actually keep the rhino (talk about a tough pet to care for!), the symbolic gesture ensures your rhino is well taken care of.
2. Gifted Gorillas
The human-like gorillas, with their expressive eyes and large hands, are becoming increasingly endangered due to habitat loss, disease, and poaching. Like humans, gorillas also reproduce slowly, with just one baby at a time that they raise for several years before having another one. This slow process means that populations aren’t able to grow quick enough to replace lost gorillas. The mountain gorilla, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla who lives in Africa, is one of the most endangered species in the world, as only about 900 remains. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund allows you to symbolically adopt a gorilla (you even get videos and photos of your gorilla), or you can make a donation here.
3. Tawny, Tough Tigers
Tigers, who only live naturally in Asia, are under threat due to, again, poaching and habitat destruction. The species that are endangered are the South China, Sumatran, Amur, Indochinese, Malayan, and Bengal tigers. Thankfully, tiger numbers have been on the incline in recent years, although more work still needs to be done. The World Wildlife Fund is doing its part to help save the tigers through reducing their contact with humans, improving their habitats, and fighting against poaching. You can help by adopting a tiger (pretty soon you’re going to have an entire adopted zoo!) or supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
4. Lean, Lithe Leopards
The Amur leopard, also known as the Far Eastern leopard, is a group of only 60 remaining in the wild, who live mainly in Eastern Russia and some areas of northeast China. In 2007, there were only 30 Amur leopards living, so things are improving for these beautiful cats. Adopt an Amur leopard here and sign the pledge to stop wildlife crime.
5. Sweet Sea Turtles
You may have been hearing more about sea turtles over the last few years, due to plastic straws becoming the number one environmental villain. Sea turtles are especially vulnerable to the plastic buildup in our oceans, be it plastic straws or plastic bags. But, plastic isn’t the only threat to the turtles. Accidental by-catch off fishing boats, illegal trade, climate change, and habitat loss are all threatening the seven species of sea turtles who have been swimming since the time of the dinosaurs. The majority of these threats are human-made, so you can do your part by sipping from a stainless steel straw, buying sustainable seafood, and always say no to tortoiseshell jewelry or souvenirs.
6. Smart And Social Sumatran Elephants
The curious and friendly elephants of Sumatra have recently been moved from ‘endangered’ to ‘critically endangered’, due to their Indonesian population being halved in just one generation, mostly because of habitat destruction, ivory poaching, and conflicts with humans. The human conflicts occur when wild elephants innocently wander onto villages because their forest homes have been destroyed or developed. To combat this, the World Wildlife Fund founded the fun-sounding Flying Elephant Squad, which is a team of rangers and trained elephants who help to keep the wild elephants away from villages and out of harm’s way.
7. Scarce Saolas
You may not have even heard of the saola, that’s how rare and endangered this species is. Often called the Asian unicorn, the small, antelope-like creature was only discovered in 1992. Found only in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos, the population count is unknown but thought to be at only a few hundred remaining. Saola numbers are dwindling mainly due to being caught in the snares of poachers and hunters in the forests. Since its recent discovery, the World Wildlife Fund has set up two saola reserves in Vietnam and is constantly working on removing snares from the saola’s area. While only about 30 years old (to us, at least!), we need to make sure the Asian unicorn stays around for centuries to come. Donate to save the saola here!
8. Vanishing Vaquitas
The ocean’s most endangered mammal, the vaquita is a tiny porpoise that is found solely in the northern Gulf of California, Mexico. Only about 15 of the aptly Spanish-named “little cows” remain today. Their main threat is illegal fishing in the upper Gulf, which catches the poor vaquitas in the gillnets used. While the Mexican government has taken action to stop the illegal fishing and remove all gillnets from the area, the vaquita population is still reduced by 50% each year.
9. Outrageous Orangutans
The red-furred orangutans, whose name means ‘man of the forest’, live only in the rainforests of Southeast Asian islands. These smart and human-like apes have been under increasing threat in recent years, mostly due to hunting and illegal wildlife trade. Though smart, the orangutan is not fast and sadly becomes an easy target. When baby orangutans are found, they are often kept illegally as pets. Another threat is the palm oil industry, which is only grown in the tropics and leads to deforestation of orangutans’ habitats. Once more, you can adopt an orangutan to help save their species. If you purchase palm oil products, look for Rainforest Alliance Certified on the label.
10. Honorable Mention: (K)ute And (K)uddly Koalas
Yes, we are partial to the koala, as the “bear” is Bearaby’s mascot. While not endangered, koala populations are experiencing a significant loss in their eastern Australia hometowns due to deforestation, wildfires, and getting hit by cars in increasingly urbanized areas. If you’re a local Aussie, keep your eyes peeled for koalas on the road while driving, and plant eucalyptus trees to help replace their homes that have been destroyed. Koalas truly can’t survive without eucalyptus, as it is both their home and their sole food source. If you’re not living down under, you can help save the koalas by adopting one.