With the earth in a sixth mass extinction state, 36% of species are vulnerable to extinction – including some of the world’s most iconic animals. Human urbanization, unrelenting and illegal poaching, black market trade, captive exploitation and habitat degredation all contribute to the decline of vulnerable species, leading to the worrying disband of fragile and complicated ecosystems.
COMING SOON: Individual species pages. Check out an example: Conservation: Tigers
Loss of tiger habitat is a result of large scale urbanization, and while hunters reduce animal populations, tigers are forced closer to human settlement in the search for food and shelter. A target of unrelenting and illegal poaching, the species is hunted for it’s pelt in an underground fur market, while it’s teeth, bones and meat are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Threatened by habitat loss, palm oil production, poaching and an illegal pet trade, the orangutan lives dangerously close to extinction. Suffering a population decline of approximately 80% over the last 75 years, most orangutans live outside of protected areas, in habitats prone to logging, forest conversion and agricultural fires and areas exploited for timber production and other natural resources.
The gorilla has experienced a significant population decline in the last thirty years, a reduction expected to continue and increase across forty more. Their welfare has been greatly affected by human activity as habitat degradation, disease-induced mortality and unrelenting illegal hunting pose heightened threats, particularly in regions with a high degree of political instability.
Originally some of the world’s most widely distributed animals, the wolf has become extinct in much of Western Europe, in Mexico and much of the USA. Deliberate persecution due to predation of livestock and an exaggerated fear of attacks on humans has crippled their population, and as fragmentation of habitat, competition for food with humans and hybridization increases, wolf populations risk extinction without sustained conservation interventions.
The critically endangered saiga once inhabited the steppes and semi-desert regions of south-eastern Europe and Central Asia, from the Precaspian steppes to Mongolia and western China. However, after an observed decline of over 80% across the last ten years attributed to skewed sex ratios, illegal hunting and use in primitive medicine, this historically common creature is now one of the fastest declining land mammals in history.
The takhi, also called Przewalski’s Horse, is not ancestral to domestic horses and is considered one of the only “truly wild” species of horse on the planet. Previously listed as extinct in the wild, the takhi was successfully reintroduced; but with fewer than 50 mature free-living takhi horses, the species is threatened by hybridisation with domestic breeds, loss of genetic diversity and disease.
› IBERIAN LYNX
Existing only within isolated pockets of southwestern Spain and with only two known breeding populations in existence, the Iberian Lynx suffers a continuing decline in occurence due to severe depletion of it’s primary food source, disease and over-hunting, as well as habitat destruction and fragmentation. A lack of mature breeding lynx in the wild has forced the species to critical endangerment.
Formerly surviving throughout most of the North, South and Stewart Islands of New Zealand, the kakapo began to disappear from it’s natural environment through human colonisation. Surviving today in minute populations on four offshore islands, conservation efforts and intensive population management have increased the numbers of kakapo in the wild, however the population trends are still negative.
Continued poaching threats and a high demand for horn have depleted the number of rhinoceros found in the wild, and while protection efforts exist, threats including low state budgets reserved for conservation and a troubling lack of general concern provide challenges in the ongoing management of the species. The occurrence of the species has declined by an overall 90% in the wild.
Extensive habitat loss and persistent persecution have depleted the population of the eagle throughout the world. Rampant illegal shooting, trophy hunting, collection of eggs and pollution of food sources play a major role in the decline of eagle occurrence, with some species falling below 10,000 wild individuals and even fewer breeding females.
› BROWN SPIDER MONKEY
Believed to have declined by over 80% in the last 45 years, the Brown Spider Monkey suffers disrupted distribution, continued hunting and habitat loss and is a popular target for illegal wildlife traffickers. With some populations already extirpated, few remaining populations are of adequate size for viable long-term reproduction management with breeding programs providing limited success.
› CALIFORNIA CONDOR
After the removal of all surviving birds into captivity in 1987, an intensive conservation program involving reintroduction and release of captive-bred birds has led to a tiny but increasing population of this species in the wild. Low birth rates, late sexual maturity, poaching, lead poisoning and major habitat destruction have severely affected condor populations, leaving the species in loom of extinction without conservation recovery strategies.
› ISLAND FOX
Introduction of disease, habitat loss and population restrictions have seen the Island Fox listed as critically endangered. The Island Fox is over-targeted as a food source by the Golden Eagle due to loss of feral pigs in reserves, a former primary supply of food to the birds. Occurrence is expected to continue it’s decline, with population decrease reaching as much as 80% in recent years.
Cheetahs have disappeared from large areas of their historic range over time and occur sparsely in the wild; disappearing from 76% of their historic range on the continent. Captured and sold in illegal trade, poached and suffering extensive habitat loss and fragmentation, the species is listed as vulnerable with a dismal 7,500 adult animals existing in the wild.
› AFRICAN WILD ASS
The critically endangered African Wild Ass once occurred in abundance throughout the semi-arid bush lands and grasslands of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Today, their numbers are critically affected by climate and human livestock impact. Conservationists estimate there are fewer than 50 mature individuals in the wild, with a current range of approximately 15,000km, or less.
Some species of Leopard depend heavily on their forest and tropical habitat – a habitat undergoing one of the fastest regional deforestation rates. The species is hunted for it’s skin and bones and is persecuted near human settlement. Depletion of prey has contributed greatly to their decline in numbers, with some leopards appearing in no more than 5,000 individuals per species.
It’s estimated that fewer than 2,500 mature individuals remain the wild today, with no confirmed, recent reports of Dholes in Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan (where they are found formerly). The endangered species is threatened by ongoing and unsustainable habitat loss and consequential depletion of prey, disease and persecution from humans.
Habitat loss and a profitable ivory trade have pushed the Elephant close to extinction – less than half a million African elephants remain in the wild, while the Asian elephant has suffered a loss of more than 50% in 70 years. With some 40,000 poached annually for tusks in the $12 million ivory trade, it’s approximated that the species will go extinct in 30 years unless conservation efforts are supported.
› GIANT PANDA
Less than 2,500 mature giant pandas exist in the wild, with each population believed to have less than 250 mature age individuals. While there is hope the giant panda’s population decline will be reversed with general habitat improvements, there is still considerable uncertainty. Climate change, hunting and thousands of years of cultivation have caused the species’ range to shrink to a fringe of a once more expansive area.
› AFRICAN WILD DOG
The African Wild Dog has disappeared from much of it’s former range, and has been virtually eradicated from West Africa and greatly reduced in central and north-east Africa. Approximately 5,000 free-ranging dogs remain with less than 2,500 mature individuals. Direct conflict with human settlement and activities, disease and habitat fragmentation contribute greatly to decreasing population trend of this once vastly prominent species.
› MALAYAN TAPIR
Loss of available habitat, fragmentation of existing habitat and increasing hunting pressure have led to a population decline of more than 50% in the last three decades for the Malayan Tapir. With conversion of lowlands to palm oil plantations, as well as other human land use, logging and hunting, the tapir’s rate of reduction provides considerable cause for concern with the species thought to be extirpated without conservation intervention.
Once found in abundance in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Lion population has decreased by more than 30% in the last two decades. Threats to the species include persecution from humans near settlement, prey depletion, poor quality of habitat, declines in area of occupation and severe species exploitation through game hunting and an illegal pet trade.
Listed as endangered, the markhor exists in numbers less than 2,500 in the wild, and suffers a continued decrease in range and population with an estimated rate of decline at 20% over the last fourteen years. The species’ subpopulations are recorded as severely fragmented, and with less than 250 mature individuals, the species is at considerable risk during a continued decline in numbers.
Two subspecies of zebra face extinction without intense conservation efforts. Grevy’s zebra, confined to the Horn of Africa, is thought to have declined by as much as 50% over the last 18 years, facing a struggle from exploitation and loss of adequate habitat while the Mountain zebra appears in less than 9,000 mature individuals. Primary causes of population loss include habitat destruction, hunting and poor access to resources.
› TASMANIAN DEVIL
With an endangered status and declining population, standardised studies show a loss of more than 60% of devils in the last ten years caused by an invariably fatal infectious cancer, Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). DFTD occurs across the majority of the devil’s geographical range and continues to spread at such a rate that a prediction of widespread local extinctions remains between 60 -90% across infected individuals.
Habitat loss and trapping for domestication, illegal removal of birds and eggs from the wild, small populations and habitat occupancy and illegal international trade sees several members of this species listed as vulnerable. Poor trend data for subpopulations exist, however, conservation studies suggest that if current trends continue, many species of crane may soon be critically endangered.
Exploitation and severe loss of habitat have greatly affected the population of the bonobo. Loss and poor quality of existing habitat due to human expansion act as primary catalysts for population declines in the last 20 to 30 years. The reduction in numbers is expected to increase for the next 45 to 55 years. Their survival depends entirely on the acknowledgement of unsustainable human expansion.
› WILD WATER BUFFALO
Hybridisation and severe threats have pushed the wild water buffalo toward extinction, with fewer than 4,000 and no more than 2,500 mature individuals in the wild. Despite their legal protection in Bhutan, India, Nepal and Thailand, the species is threatened by poaching, habitat loss through conversion to agriculture, degradation of wetlands and competition for food against livestock.
› GOLIATH FROG
Once considered a source of food in West Africa and exported to zoos and illegal animal dealers, the goliath frog now occupies a relatively small habitat range. Despite attempts from the Equatorial Guinean government to control their export, the species faces threat from smugglers, and with a population decline of more than 50% over the last three generations, the species faces considerable challenges to it’s survival in the wild.
With some species of macaw already lost to extinction, intense illegal trapping for the cagebird trade, hunting and habitat destruction contribute greatly to the species’ poor conservation status. Though some species are now steadily increasing due to successful conservation efforts, others continue toward extinction in small, isolated populations targeted by exotic pet dealers and habitat conversion.
Once occurring in the arid and dry-savanna zones of sub-Saharan Africa, the population of the giraffe has contracted markedly with the expansion of human beings and settlement. Their survival is threatened by an alarming decrease in numbers and occurence, severely fragmented habitat and extensive illegal poaching for their skins.
The hippopotamus has been affected by a 20% decline in population over the last ten years. Struggling to maintain population against the threat of habitat loss and severe fragmentation, as well as illegal poaching for their meat and ivory teeth, the number of hippopotami is thought to decrease over 30% in the next 30 years without continued conservation efforts.
With their populations estimated to have decreased by as much as 70% over the last three generations in Indochina and Malaysia, causative factors such as wild meat hunting and poaching for the trade in horns in Southeast Asia are still operative and contribute greatly to the poor conservation status of the gaur – an animal that once inhabited mainland south and southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, and is now only found in scattered areas.
Widespread illegal killing and trade in bear parts, combined with a loss and fragmentation of habitat and climate change (especially for bears who depend on forest and marine environments) place pressure on the populations of the several species of bear, including the brown and polar. It is expected that uncontrolled trade in bear parts and deforestation will continue during the next 30 years unless abated by conservation and anti-poaching measurements.
› KOMODO DRAGON
Featured extensively in Chinese folklore as man-eating dragons, the Komodo dragon now struggles to survive. With as little as 250 breeding females in the wild, threats include trapping for sale to zoos and private collectors, as well as big game hunting and illegal poaching for their skins and feet, extensive habitat destruction and a low general occurrence.
Intensive hunting of the Mandrill combined with pressures from habitat destruction and human settlement have resulted in a severe loss of range and population. Rare, and in some cases locally exterminated, the Mandrill is primarily effected by loss of it’s evergreen forest habitat, with it’s most immediate threat in the form of hunting for bushmeat – highly prized in Gabon.
Species loss, logging, and habitat destruction largely caused by the conversion of forested areas to agricultural land and pasture, as well as extermination by humans as a “pest” animal (leading to large scale hunting expeditions) pose major threats to the conservation of the fossa despite it’s protection in many areas throughout Madagascar.
› AMERICAN BISON
In the 19th Century, market, subsistence and recreational hunting nearly eliminated the bison throughout its range in North America. Sadly, conservation measures have brought about limited recovery in the wild and in captive conservation herds. Existing threats to the bison include: habitat loss, small population, gene cattle introgression, hybridisation and depopulation as a response to serious infection and disease.
Areas inhabited by the jaguar are prone to high occurrences of deforestation and prey depletion, isolating their populations near human settlement and making them more susceptible to hunting. Through animosity toward jaguars as a “pest” animal, they are often persecuted despite legal protection. Commercial hunting for teeth and pelts and trapping for private buyers still exists, despite progressive attempts of mediation.
According to conservation material, one-third of the Okapi’s known area of occupancy will be at risk of loss and fragmentation over the next several decades, with major threats including logging and increasing human expansion. Hunting for meat and skins is also a high threat to the species, leading the Okapi to decline rapidly in areas prone to hunting-gathering and use of cable snares.
› AFRICAN GREY PARROT
Habitat loss throughout West and East Africa are thought to have had significant effect on the occurrence of the intelligent African Grey Parrot. As one of the most popular avian pets in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, the species has been heavily trapped and sold in the cagebird trade, putting immense pressure on illegal export in response to a global demand for their domestication.
Human activities continue to pressure the wolverine’s populations and habitat despite warnings from conservationists and lobbies. Extensive hunting, climate change, trapping and “population control” (thought necessary because of conflict between humans for resources and predation of livestock) have greatly contributed to the loss of occurrence of the wolverine.