Sadly many animal species are under threat of total extinction after years of environmental and human damage, such as the polar bear, marine turtle and the iconic giant panda.
Asian and African Rhinoceros
Several rhino species are under threat, such as the Sumatran Rhinoceros, which is the smallest of the rhino species with an estimated 275 remaining in the world. The Javan Rhinoceros has been poached almost into extinction, with just 70 estimated to exist. And the Northern White Rhinoceros is the most endangered of the mighty rhino species – with just 10 remaining, all of which are protected at conservation centres around the world. The Africa savannahs were home to a million black and white rhinos, but hunting for sport and poaching for medicinal purposes has beaten these creatures to the very verge of extinction.
Some good news however is that the one-horned rhino, which lives in Nepal, India and Bhutan has increased in number, from just 600 in 1975 to nearly 3,000 today, thanks to conservation efforts.
Seeing a gorilla up close is one of nature’s wonders but disease and illegal hunting are driving gorilla populations dangerously close to extinction. In fact the Mountain Gorilla population is put at just 786 which live in two regions within Rwanda and Uganda in Africa. The rarest ape on earth is the Cross River Gorilla of Nigeria and Cameroon of which only 300 remain in the wild.
There’s better news for the western and eastern lowland gorillas where wild populations are put at 100,000 and 17,000.
Anyone that watched the recent BBC wildlife series ‘The Polar Bear Family and Me’ would have wept watching a mother polar bear desperately trying to eat plastic washed up on the coast. Living in the far north, the polar bear is an important indicator of how the Arctic marine ecosystem is faring as a whole. And with worries that the Arctic ice is melting at a shocking rate, the breeding and hunting ground for polar bears is rapidly diminishing. There are thought to be around 25,000 polar bears remaining in the wold to date. Watch the BBC video that shows the lengths a polar bear will go to get food.
Three leopard species are particularly at risk of extinction; the Amur Leopard, Clouded Leopard and Snow Leopard. The Amur Leopard is a familiar sight in Africa but the populations in China and Russia are seriously low; just 12 in China and 25 in Russia. The clouded Leopard lives in tropical forest across Southeast Asia and the Himalayas and it’s estimated that just 10,000 remain in the wild. The Snow Leopard lives high up in the mountains, in cold terrains in Central Asia and up to 6,500 are thought to exist in the wild.
All seven species of marine turtle are endangered – three species are critically endangered. Turtle numbers have been hampered by so many environmental and man-made factors such as habitat loss, poor new-born survival rates, poaching, pollution and climate change. The 7 different turtle species – hawksbill, flatback, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and green turtle are imperative to the marine eco system. The Kemp's ridley turtle is the most endangered species with just 1,000 nesting females thought to remain.
Extensive logging in the orangutans natural forest habitats have decimated the population, which is classed as Critically Endangered. The two different species, Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan live in Indonesia and Malaysia. Their habitat has been felled for timber and burnt to make way for palm oil plantations and this had to estimates of just 7,500 Sumatran orangutans and 41,000 Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild.
The iconic image of the black and white panda symbolises wildlife conservation as a whole. The beautiful animal has been the symbol of the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) since it formed in 1961. It’s estimated that as few as 1,600 wild giant pandas exist in their natural habitat of bamboo forests in western China. Giant pandas used to live throughout China, Burma and Vietnam but today their habitat is restricted to around 20 separate areas around the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu – a fact which makes breeding difficult. There are 22 giant panda breeding sites across the world, including the Chengdu Panda Research Base and various zoo initiatives.