20 Animals Near Extinction in the Wild!
Scientists estimate that, every year, as many as 100,000 species could be going extinct. Many of these extinctions occur naturally and without our knowledge, and therefore we can’t do much about them. There are, however, many well-known species that are near or even at the brink of extinction, like those listed below. If we don’t do something to save them, these twenty animals could well disappear before our eyes.
This large antelope, also called the screw horn antelope because of its long, twisted horns, can be found in one of the hottest places on earth — the Sahara Desert — at least, for now. It survives the hot climate by being active at night, huddling with the rest of the herd in the shade during the day, and by getting and storing water from the plants it eats and producing concentrated urine. It also digs hollows in the sand where it keeps cool and lies low during sandstorms. Today, less than 500 addax are believed to exist in the wild. Since the 1800s, they have been hunted for their meat and their skin, which is sadly an easy feat, since addax are slow, non-aggressive and live in herds.
2. African Wild Ass
The ancestor of the domestic donkey, the African wild ass is currently threatened by hunting and dwindling water supply due to droughts. Once abundant all over Africa, it is now limited to Eritrea and Ethiopia, where its population may be as small as seventy animals, or possibly as large as 600.
African wild asses are over 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and up to 4.7 feet (1.4 meters) tall. They live in loose herds in dry areas and are able to survive without water for a long time but not indefinitely. They can run almost as fast as horses and have loud brays that can be heard over a mile (1.6 kilometers) away.
3. Amur Leopard
The Amur leopard is currently one of the world’s rarest big cats, with less than twenty adults and six cubs recorded in the last census. Since 1996, it has been listed as Critically Endangered, threatened by poaching, destruction of forests and inbreeding.
The Amur is the only leopard adapted to a cold climate. It has thick fur, long legs and broad paws for walking across the snow. It preys on deer, moose, wild pig, badgers, hares, birds and bear cubs.
4. Black Rhino
In 2011, one species of the black rhino, the western black rhino, was already declared extinct, and the remaining seven subspecies are all in danger of suffering the same fate. In spite of laws put in place, black rhinos continue to be hunted for their horns, which are used to make ceremonial daggers in the Middle East and medicinal concoctions in China.
Black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos but can have longer front horns and sometimes, a third horn. Being browsers (as opposed to grazers), they have hooked upper lips which are used to grasp leaves from bushes and trees. They are not territorial, but will charge if they sense the slightest threat, going up to 34 miles (55 kilometers) per hour.
Chinchillas are small rodents which have some of the densest and softest fur in the world, thirty times softer than human hair, which, unfortunately, has caused them to be hunted down almost to extinction in the wild. There are two species — the short-tailed chinchilla and the smaller long-tailed chinchilla.
Chinchillas live in the Andes Mountains, staying in burrows under the ground during the day. At dawn and dusk, they come out to feed on grasses, leaves and twigs. They can jump as high as 6 feet (1.8 meters) to reach tree branches. They have to keep an eye out for predators, though, spraying urine or releasing fur when threatened.
6. Cross River Gorilla
The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla which can be found in the northernmost parts of the western gorilla’s range, in the mountains and forests between Cameroon and Nigeria. Cross River gorillas have smaller skulls and teeth than western lowland gorillas, the other subspecies. They are also known to be more aggressive, throwing sticks from their nests when threatened instead of fleeing.
The Cross River gorilla is threatened by changes to its habitat, mainly the leveling of forests to make roads. Currently, only 200 to 300 individuals are believed to remain in the wild.
7. Cuban Crocodile
Cuban crocodiles have brighter colors — yellowish green with dark blotches — and longer legs than most crocodile species. They are also relatively small, growing only about 7 feet (2.1 meters) long, but can be quite aggressive, hunting in packs. They are also believed to be the most intelligent crocodile species, although this has not yet been confirmed.
Sadly, the Cuban crocodile has the most limited range of all crocodiles, found only in a small part of Cuba. In addition, it is hunted for its meat and bred with other crocodiles, which has caused its population to drop to less than 4000 individuals.
8. European Mink
The European mink is in danger of suffering the same fate as its cousin, the sea mink, which was hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. Today, less than 20,000 individuals are believed to remain, the decline in its population brought on by deforestation, hunting and competition with the American mink and the European polecat.
The European mink looks just like a weasel, with a long body and short legs, but is more thinly built. It has loose-fitting fur that is thick and dark brown in winter, and lighter and thinner in summer. It is an excellent swimmer and hunts fish, frogs and crustaceans, as well as voles on land.
9. Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is the only species in its genus. Like other sea turtles, it has flippers instead of feet and a flattened shell. Its shell, known as the tortoiseshell, is quite beautiful, with a unique pattern that changes color depending on the temperature of the water. Hawksbill turtles get their name from their beak-like mouths, which they use to feed on sea sponges and jellyfish, even toxic ones. This makes their flesh toxic as well.
Hawksbill sea turtles are threatened by the tortoiseshell trade, which is particularly big in Japan, as well by as the collection of their eggs and the destruction of reefs. Their exact population has not been determined, but is believed to have decreased significantly and that it will continued to do so.
10. Javan Rhino
Rhinos can be found in two parts of the world — Africa and Asia. The Javan rhino was once the most abundant of all the rhinos in Asia, but it is now on the brink of extinction, with less than fifty individuals found in the wild and none in captivity. As with other rhinos, it is hunted for its horn.
Javan rhinos are the largest animals in Java, growing up to 13 feet (4 meters) long. Males have a single horn which is the smallest among all rhinos.
The kakapo is one unique bird, being the largest and only flightless parrot. Sadly, though, this flightlessness has caused the kakapo to be an easy target for cats, which hunt about half of the population each year. Currently, less than a hundred birds are believed to remain in the wild.
The kakapo has yellowish-green feathers which help it to hide among the plants. When threatened, it freezes, making its camouflage even more effective. During breeding the season, male kakapos perform a “lek” (which is like a pageant), making booming calls to attract females. The female comes to watch the males and then chooses the mate she thinks is best.
12. Mountain Gorilla
The mountain gorilla is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla and, like three other gorilla subspecies, is Critically Endangered. In fact, the mountain gorilla is the most endangered of all the gorilla subspecies, with less than 700 estimated remaining in the wild.
Mountain gorillas live high up in the mountains and have thicker fur than other gorillas, to withstand the cold. They are the second-largest gorillas, with males standing over 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall. They spend most of their time on the ground, walking on all fours, but will climb trees that can support their weight.
13. Philippine Eagle
The Philippine eagle is one of the rarest birds of prey in the world today, with its population numbering 750 at most in its small range. This is a tragedy, considering that the Philippine eagle is one of the largest eagles, over 3 feet (0.9 meters) long with a wingspan of over 7 feet (2.1 meters). It preys on lemurs, monkeys, bats, deer, snakes, lizards, rats and other birds.
14. Saiga Antelope
With its oversized nose that filters out dust and helps keep it warm in winter, the saiga antelope is sometimes considered one of the ugliest mammals in the world. This does not mean it is alright for it to disappear, though, which is a threat it is currently facing. Numbering over a million in the 1970s, there are less than 800 saiga antelope left, threatened by hunting for meat and horns. Males have long, grooved horns. Saigas also have long legs for running quickly when threatened, and a coat that is thin and brown in summer and thick and white in winter.
15. South China Tiger
Several tiger subspecies have already gone extinct in the last 500 years, and now the South China tiger faces the same threat. In fact, the South China tiger is the most Critically Endangered of all tigers and all the big cats, and there is a possibility that it is already extinct in the wild.
The South China tiger has a bright orange coat with narrow stripes. It feeds on wild pigs and deer, as well as porcupines, hares and birds, going for the throat and then dragging the prey into hiding.
16. Sumatran Elephant
One of three subspecies of the Asian elephant, the Sumatran elephant can grow over 10 feet (3 meters) tall at the shoulder and has a light grey coat. It has a long lifespan like other elephants but females stop reproducing at around 60 years of age. In the past 75 years, its population has decreased by 80%, due to deforestation, and today, less than 700 are believed to remain in the wild.
17. Sumatran orangutan
Orangutans are large, reddish apes that spend more time in the trees than any other ape, and are among the most intelligent primates, able to use tools, solve problems and show capacity for learning human language. There are two subspecies of the orangutan, one of which, the Sumatran orangutan, is Critically Endangered.
18. Sumatran rhino
The Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhino subspecies but is still a large animal, measuring over 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and 10 feet (3 meters) long. It has two horns and a reddish-brown coat.
Since 1996, the Sumatran rhino has been listed as Critically Endangered. Even before then, the Sumatran rhino’s population was already declining, and a captive breeding program was initiated involving forty individuals, but this ultimately failed, with most of the individuals dying and no young produced. Today, only around 250 individuals exist.
19. Sumatran tiger
Like several other animals on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Sumatran tiger is on the brink of extinction, with less than 400 individuals remaining. It has dark brown fur with more stripes than other tigers, and males have a prominent ruff. It is one of the smallest tiger subspecies, but can still grow over 8 feet (2.4 meters) long.
20. Western lowland gorilla
Like the Cross River gorilla, the western lowland gorilla is also Critically Endangered, its population having decreased by at least 60% in the last 25 years. It is mainly threatened by deforestation, hunting for bush meat and by diseases, such as Ebola outbreaks. Also, the males are prone to heart disease.
The western lowland gorilla is the smallest of the gorillas but it can still stand up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. Like other gorillas, it lives in groups led by one or two males, traveling constantly throughout their range.
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