I am certain that everyone is aware of the human impact on the environment. But what is most terrifying, is the fact that our toxic creation of habitat loss, pollution and climate change has resulted in the sixth mass extinction of animals with species going extinct at over one hundred times the normal rate.
Since 1500, our impact on the environment has led to the loss of around 77 species of mammals, 140 birds and 34 amphibians. This is what we know of for certain. According to scientists at Stanford University in the United States, this is the biggest loss of animals since the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Prior to that, there were four mass extinctions ranging from 443 million years up until the extinction of the dinosaurs.
It is normal for species to go extinct, this is true. However, it is not normal for species to be disappearing at one hundred times the normal rate and in mass numbers. And as scientists point out, this figure is grossly underestimating the extinction crisis. The fact that one in four mammals is currently at risk of going extinct and that 41% of amphibians are also risk is absolutely deplorable. Eventually, many will only survive in captivity, if we are lucky.
It is the responsibility of governments to start working together to conserve threatened species before it is too late.
With that being said, here are ten of the planet’s most at risk species, and some of them, I guarantee you may not have heard about because of how endangered they are.
- South China Tiger
Believed to be most likely extinct in the wild, the South China Tiger used to be native to the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi in China. Their likelihood of survival if they do exist in the wild is almost zero due to low prey density, widespread destruction of their habitat and other pressures that are caused by humans. In captivity, there could be as few as 72 left, all with signs of inbreeding and/or crossbreeding, most are within China but as of 2007, one cub was born in South Africa and there have been more since then due to efforts of the Save China’s Tigers organization in South Africa who are working to release the tigers back into reserves in China while continuing to breed some in South Africa.
- Sumatran Elephant
A native of Sumatra, this subspecies of the Asian elephant has suffered a decline of 80% in the last 80 years. This smaller elephant is at risk for the same reason as many others, the effects of humans on their environment who have destroyed their environment, and also from poaching.
- Amur Leopard
Native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and the Jilin province of China, it is believed that as of 2007, only 19-26 Amur Leopards still exist in the wild. Luckily, as of February 2015, scientists are happy to see that there could be about 57 of the Leopards in Russia and 12 in China, unfortunately, it is still critically endangered.
- Atlantic Goliath Grouper
The Atlantic Goliath Grouper is a huge saltwater fish that is usually found in the Florida Keys and Caribbean waters as it loves the shallow tropical waters amongst coral and reefs. It has also been found in the Atlantic Ocean between Senegal and the Congo. Originally, these fish were hunted quite a bit as they are considered a delicacy, but their population began to decline at a rapid rate as a result of being over fished and due to a huge loss in reefs.
- Gulf Porpoise
The gulf porpoise, or vaquito is common in the Gulf of California but still remains a rare species due to there only being maybe 100 of them left. They are almost like smaller versions of the manatee.
- Northern Bald Ibis
The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird that usually lives in rocky habitats, like mountains cliffs and deserts. It used to be very common throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe, but after disappearing from Europe and the Middle East, it is only rarely spotted in southern Morocco now. Although it is unclear why exactly they have been pushed to near extinction, it is most likely due to loss of habitat and pesticide poisoning.
- Hawksbill Turtle
The Hawksbill Turtle is probably one of the cutest turtles you have ever seen before. It looks like other sea turtles except for its curved beak. They have been pushed to the brink of extinction because they used to be a primary source of tortoiseshell material that was used for decorative things. This and environmental degradation has led to their demise.
- Black Rhinoceros
As has been clear in recent years, the Black Rhinoceros is extremely endangered. Native to Eastern and Central African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola, the Black Rhino as well as the White Rhino are endangered to the point that many are protected by armed guards 24/7.
- Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth
A subspecies of sloth, the Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth, or the monk sloth, is pretty small compared to other sloths. It is typically found on la Isla Escudo de Veraguas, which is right off the coast of Panama. As of 2012, there were only about 70 sloths left in the mangroves in Escudo de Veraguas most likely due to fishermen coming and poaching the sloth. The protection of them is also not enforced as much as it should be which is why they are now critically endangered.
- Chinese Pangolin
The Chinese Pangolin is a pangolin found mostly in northern Indochina like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as Taiwan and southern China. Pangolins are difficult to track as they are very solitary, but the IUCN reports that the Chinese Pangolin are the ones most at risk right now of the eight Asian Pangolin species, but all of them are currently on the decline.
Although it may seem as if the extinction of these animals does not affect anyone, this just not true. The destruction of species has an effect on the ecosystems, and if one ecosystem is affected, others will be too. It is for this reason that everyone must work to ensure that species like these and others that are endangered are able to stay.