These Rare Photos of Animals on the Endangered Species List Are Breathtaking
While Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with by every species on Earth, animals have to face the devastating effects of habitat loss, poaching, and climate change. It all comes down to one factor: humans! Man-made influences have caused over 41,000 animals to be considered “Threatened Species”, with almost 20,000 of them classified as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, the latter of which means close to extinction. If man continues at this rate, the list will continue to grow. The next generation won’t be able to enjoy these animals, but more importantly, these animals will have to suffer a senseless mass extinction. Read here to see rare photographs that capture these unique and breathtaking animals on the endangered species list.
1. Iberian Lynx
This wild cat species, native to the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, has seen a sharp decline since the beginning of the 1990s. In 2002, a survey found that only 100 Iberian Lynx were left in the world, surviving in Andalusia, Spain in two isolated breeding populations.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classified this wild cat as endangered because of climate change, habitat destruction of grasslands and forests, overhunting, poaching, and the loss of the Iberian Lynx’s main prey, the European rabbit. The wild cat preys exclusively on European rabbit, so when rabbit populations rapidly declined in the ’90s because of a virus called myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease, it severely affected these cats.
2. Red Panda
It is estimated that there are only 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, but it’s hard to determine an exact number because of their shy, secretive nature and nocturnal behavior. Almost 50% of the red panda dwell in the Eastern Himalayas. Their skillful and acrobatic nature allowing them to stay in the trees.
The red panda has been classified as endangered by the IUCN as the population continues to decline as a result of poaching, inbreeding (which causes more health problems), and habitat loss and fragmentation. The former prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, once kept a red panda as a pet when the animal was presented to her family as a gift. She housed the animal in a special tree house.
3. Saiga Antelope
This critically endangered species had mass die-off s in the 1980s, and between 2010 and 2014, a large amount of saiga antelope died every year. Research reveals that warmer weather and humidity was the main cause of death because it caused a bacteria common in the species to move into the blood stream, causing blood poisoning. Then from 2015-2016, a bacterium called Pasteurella multocida caused the death of more than 120,000 saiga.
Today, the saiga is only found in one location in Russia and three areas of Kazakhstan. They migrate to to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan during the winter months. There are currently only 50,000 saiga antelope in the world; there were over a million in the early ’90s. The Mongolian subspecies is particularly at risk of extinction with only 750 left.
4. Proboscis Monkey
Oil palm plantations and logging have caused devastating habitat loss for the proboscis monkey over the past four decades, causing a 50% decline in the population. The large-nosed monkey, endemic to the southeast Asian island of Borneo, can be found on all three nations that divide the island, namely Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The proboscis monkey has been assessed and listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Besides for habitat loss, this monkey is also hunted as a delicacy and because of its traditional Chinese medicinal use.
5. Philippine Eagle
Philippine Eagles are endemic to the forests in the Philippines, which is why this bird is the national bird of the country. Also called the monkey-eating eagle, this rare bird is classified as one of the most powerful birds on Earth.
This white-and-grey-colored eagle is listed on the endangered species list as critically endangered. As of 2015, only 600 of these birds are left because of deforestation. The Philippines takes the preservation of its national bird very seriously — killing the eagle incurs heavy fines or up to 12 years in prison under Philippine law.
6. Marine Iguana
Only found on the Galápagos Islands, the marine iguana appears as if it hails from the Triassic era of the dinosaurs with its spikes, long and sharp claws, and its strange mix of black, red, green, and yellow colors.
The marine iguana is the only lizard able to swim and hunt in water, classifying the species as marine reptiles. The IUCN has listed this lizard as vulnerable because of habitat destruction and tourism, posing a potential threat to this species. There are currently between 200,000 to 300,000 marine iguanas in the world.
7. Military Macaw
The devastating ramifications of deforestation in South America and Mexico have severely affected the wild population of the vibrant military macaw parrot. The parrot is still commonly traded in the pet industry, but only 10,000 exist in the world.
The capturing of these gorgeous birds for the pet trade industry has also contributed to the rapid decrease in the military macaw’s global population over the past 50 years. Since 2013, the parrot has been listed as vulnerable on endangered species lists, such as the IUCN Red List and the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix I, which protects the parrots from being captured for trade.
8. Sea Angels
Not to be confused with jelly fish and other similar species, sea angels are small sea slugs usually swimming in a large group. The gelatinous and transparent organisms are found in cold oceans under ice as well as in equatorial tropical seas.
Sea angels are usually slow-moving, but they can beat their “wings” at a rate of once or twice per second to pick up speed in order to pursue their prey. They are carnivorous and feed on their fellow pteropods, called Thecosomata, because of their shells. Owing to the drastic shifts in global temperatures, the sea angel populations are rapidly dwindling.
9. White-Bellied Pangolin
The tree pangolin, also called the three-cusped pangolin and white-bellied pangolin, is subject to widespread and severe hunting and exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine in equatorial Africa. This species is actually the most common of the pangolin species on the African bushmeat market.
Between 1993 and 2008, conservationists believe that the white-bellied pangolin population decreased by 25% mainly because of bushmeat hunting. Its status has changed from “Least Concern” to “Near Threatened” because of the unrelenting and unsustainable hunting of them. An exact number of the animals remaining is unknown.
10. Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey
Its golden and shiny hair and pressed-in nose give the golden snub-nosed monkey its name. This monkey species is native to the mountainous forests in central and southwest China where snow frequently occurs in the winter season. The golden snub-nosed monkey is actually the only non-human primate able to withstand very cold temperatures.
The population of this monkey is endangered, as there are only between 8,000 to 15,000 in the wild because of habitat loss and the harvesting of dead trees which contain their main source of food, lichen. This monkey species is very particular with its food choice, so any damage to its natural habitat has detrimental effects.
11. Ring-Tailed Lemur
Endemic to the island of Madagascar, the ring-tailed lemur inhabits the spiny scrubs of the forests in the south of the island. They are extremely social animals, and huddle and sunbathe together in groups of up to 30.
While reproduction rate of the ring-tailed lemurs is high in captivity, these animals only number around 2,000 in the wild, and are therefore classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. As of 2017, the exotic pet trade, habitat destruction, and hunting were responsible for the population’s rapid decline.
12. Beluga Sturgeon
The female beluga sturgeon is primarily hunted for its roe, as they produce extremely valuable beluga caviar, and overall, the entire population has rapidly decreased in the Caspian and Black Sea basins because of poaching and over-fishing. As a result of all the hunting, the IUCN classified this huge fish as critically endangered, while the Bern Convention restricts its trade.
In fact, any intentional hunting and killing of the Mediterranean beluga population is prohibited. In 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of beluga caviar and other beluga products from the Caspian Sea. Left alone, the fish can live up to 118 years.
13. Giant Panda
The giant panda, otherwise referred to as the panda bear, is native to south central China. What makes this panda so endearing to humans are its black patches around its eyes and across its body. Threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, pandas are listed as a vulnerable species with only 1,864 of them left in the wild.
Surprisingly, this low number is actually a success story because the numbers have increased from 1,000 in the late ’70s and 1,596 in 2003. The panda feeds on bamboo, but in captivity, they are also given honey, eggs, shrub leaves, oranges, yams, bananas, and fish. In the wild, they also feed on other grasses and even meat like birds, carrion, and rodents.
14. Olm Salamander
Since 1982, the olm salamander has been on the rare and endangered species list. This amphibious creature has no eyes, rendering it completely blind. This salamander dwells in the caves of the Dinaric Alps spanning from northwest Italy, across Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania. The IUCN Red List classifies the olm as vulnerable because of its ever-decreasing population and limited distribution.
This species is super sensitive to any climate changes to its environment because of how it adapted to the particular conditions of the European caves. Pollutants, including fertilizers and pesticides, are toxic to these creatures. The Slovenian part of the caves are famous for being home to animals one cannot find anywhere else, so the olm was stolen by collectors for the black market. To combat this in Croatia, legislation was instituted to keep these amphibians safe, only allowing collection for research purposes.
15. Pied Tamarin
Indigenous to the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, the pied tamarin has been classified as an endangered primate species. The animal’s diet consists of flowers, fruit, insects, bird eggs, and small vertebrates. In the wild, they are preyed on by snakes, birds of prey, and small cats, while in urban settings, domestic and feral dogs and cats feed on them.
The exact population of the pied tamarin is unknown, but there are 170 tamarins kept in captivity and in protected areas in Manaus, the capital city of the Amazonas state of Brazil, as well as just outside Manaus.
These intimidating-looking birds are endangered species found in Eastern Africa with an estimated population of only 8,000. This very-large stork-like bird is known for its massive bill shaped like a shoe. It is sometimes nicknamed “whalehead” but the birds are called abu markub in Arabic, which means “one with a shoe.”
The shoebill live in swamps around Zambia, Uganda, Sudan, and eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in the Malagarasi wetlands in Tanzania. Their exact estimated population ranges between 5,000 to 8,000, so BirdlLife International has classified the bird as “vulnerable” as a result of hunting and habitat destruction.
Famous for being the fastest land animal in the world, the cheetah is a large cat native to several regions in Africa and a few areas in Iran. The cheetah is listed on the IUCN Red List as “vulnerable” as its population declined from 100,000 to around 12,000 during the 20th century.
Poaching, the illegal pet trade, and habitat loss has caused the rapid decline in the cheetah population. The IUCN has coordinated conservation efforts for these beautiful, large spotted cats. Private reserves are also helping to restore the cheetah population because of the absence of poachers and predators.
Despite their resemblance to pigs, the hippopotamus evolved from cetaceans, which have been around for 55 million years. Cetaceans are aquatic marine animals and include dolphins, whales, and porpoises. The semi-aquatic hippo is native to sub-Saharan Africa and known to run up to 30 km/h over short distances despite their cumbersome and heavy bodies.
The most significant decline in the hippo population has been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo owing to the Second Congo War when Mai-Mai rebels poached them. By 2005, the population dropped from 29,000 to 800 or 900 in Virunga National Park. Since 2016, the population has increased. Overall, the hippo is classified as a vulnerable species because there are about 150,000 left in the world.
19. Egyptian Vulture
The Egyptian vulture population, referred to as pharaoh’s chicken, has rapidly declined by 35% since the late ’90s. The main cause of this decline is human activity, as the healthy adults do not have many predators in their habitats, which range from India to northern African to southeastern Europe.
The Egyptian vulture faces many man-made threats, namely intentional poisoning, hunting, power line construction, pesticides, and lead poisoning from eating carcasses of animals killed with bullets. These vultures are included on the endangered species list as the current population stands at around 38,000.
Luminous fireflies, also called lighting bugs, produce a bioluminescent light from their lower abdomens during twilight. The light may be pale red, yellow, or green. There are about 2,100 species of these winged beetles, and they are indigenous to tropical and temperate climates in wet and wooded marshes.
Land-use changes have directly affected fireflies because of pesticides, loss of habitat, and connectivity to other habitats. These insects rely on their own light to reproduce, so light pollution has drastically disturbed their reproductive activities, bringing some populations down to zero.
21. Polar Bear
These pure white bears look like great cuddle buddies from afar, but you don’t want to get close to one, as a male boar can weigh up to 700 kg. Their population has been extremely difficult to track because of their remote native habitat, mainly within the Arctic Circle, and their low population densities. Biologists have estimated they number 25,000 globally.
Climate change, and in turn, loss of habitat are the main threats polar bears face. They are classified as vulnerable species, with an expected 30% population decrease over the next three generations because of pollution and the decrease in habitat quality. The World Wildlife Fund has declared that polar bears are a great indicator of the general ecosystem health in the Arctic.
22. European Honey Bee
Whether you like bees or not, a mass extinction of honey bees can cause detrimental and irreversible damage to the entire planet. Also referred to as the Western honey bee, the European honey bee is the most common of the 12 honey bee species in the world.
This honey bee occupies every continent besides Antarctica owing to human assistance because of their use in honey production and pollination. The honey bee was actually one of the first domesticated insects. Fortunately, in 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that the species’ population went up by 3%.
23. Hooded Vulture
This scruffy-looking small vulture is native to sub-Saharan Africa and scavenges off carcasses for food. The hooded vulture is categorized as an Old World vulture as it belongs to the family Accipitridae and was originally found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, whereas New World vultures are found in warm and mild areas of the Americas.
This vulture’s population has rapidly decreased by more than 85% in the last five decades because of poisoning, loss of habitat, and hunting. The International Union for Conversation of Nature listed it as “critically endangered” on its endangered species list. The poisoning of hooded vultures is both intentional and unintentional, with the latter caused when they eat animals who were intentionally poisoned. The species is also hunted for food, medicine, and black magic uses.
24. African Elephant
Both majestic and fierce, the African elephant is one of Africa’s most familiar symbols. In just the last decade, the cruel and ruthless poaching trade has taken the lives of over 144,000 elephants in order to trade their tusks for ivory.
The World Wide Fund for Nature estimated the population of African elephants to be between three and five million in the ’40s. Today, the population has been reduced to about 700,000 elephants. Besides for the illegal ivory trade, the other biggest threat to the African elephant are the changes in land usage. Despite the population increasing slightly with conservation efforts, the species is listed as “vulnerable” on the endangered species list.
25. Northern White Rhinoceros
The northern white rhinoceros is very rare as it is one of two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. The population used to be found in East and Central Africa below the Sahara, grazing on grasslands and savanna woodlands, but as of 2017, only three of these rhinos exist, rendering the species critically endangered and facing an extremely high risk of extinction.
The remaining two female northern white rhinoceros, named Najin and Fatu, currently live in captivity at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya even though they belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic. Sudan, the last male white rhino and Najin’s father, died on March 20, 2018 from several complications. The situation was really bad as Sudan was only one old male left but he was unable to reproduce. These beautiful creatures are protected around the clock by armed guards and specialists. All five rhino subspecies are at risk of extinction because of hunting and habitat loss. By the end of 2015, conservationists have estimated that only 30,000 are left in the wild.
26. Indian Gharial
This fish-eating crocodile, better known as the Indian Gharial, is native to the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent. The wild population consists of only 235 breeding adult individuals because of the depletion of fish, loss of habitat, and its entanglement in fishing nets.
The Indian Gharial remains one of the longest crocodilian species to exist, but owing to its drastic decline in the past seven decades, the species has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. There are conservation efforts underway in India and Nepal, but none have yet restored this species to a viable population.
27. Kaiser’s Newt
The spotted Kaiser’s Newt species is endemic to just four streams in the Iranian Zagros Mountains, rendering them critically endangered on the endangered species list with a population of only 9,000 in a habitat that can provide for over 40,000.
The salamander species is characterized by its colorful and spotted features. Its biggest threats placing it at risk of extinction are habitat loss and the illegal wild animal trade. While Iran is planning on launching a breeding program, there is currently only one captive breeding program, located at Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan.
28. Red-Crowned Crane
Also called the Japanese Crane, the regal red-crowned crane is one of the rarest of its species in existence. They are celebrated as a symbol of longevity, fidelity, and luck in eastern Asia. However, the estimated total population of this crane species is only 2,750 in the wild.
The red-crowned crane attained endangered status in 1970, but with the collective effort of China, Japan, Korea, and Russia, around 1,000 are protected by conservation programs in zoos. Habitat destruction remains the crane’s biggest threat in the wild with little-to-no wetland habitats in which females can nest.
29. Arabian Oryx
This magnificent and extremely endangered species has a unique appearance consisting of its conspicuous shoulder bump, tufted tail, and long, straight horns. In 1986, the Arabian Oryx was placed on the IUCN Red List as endangered and then reverted back to vulnerable in 2011.
The Arabian Oryx was almost hunted to extinction in 1972. What saved this endangered species list animal from certain death was the captive breeding program called “Operation Oryx,” orchestrated by the Phoenix Zoo and the Fauna and Flora Society of London. They took in nine of them and produced over 240 births. However, in June 2011, the animal was relisted as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List with only 1,000 left in the wild.
30. Western Lowland Gorillas
These big-footed, giant animals have always fascinated humans because of their human-like characteristic and antics. The Western Lowland Gorilla might be the most common and widespread of its species, but there are approximately only 100,00 of them left because of habitat destruction and hunting.
Around the ’80s, a census of the gorilla population in equatorial Africa was calculated to be 100,000. In 2007, that number increased to 125,000 as the Wildlife Conservation Society discovered an unreported amount dwelling in the swamp forests of Lake Télé Community Reserve and in the neighboring Marantaceae forests of the Republic of the Congo. However, poaching and deforestation, as well as outbreaks of Ebola, still render these gorillas at risk of extinction.
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Sources: Animal Channel
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