An endangered species is an organism that is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has calculated the percentage of endangered species as 40 percent of all organisms based on the sample of species that have been evaluated through 2006.
The last century was the witness as to how fast the endangerment of animals has become. What is alarming is that the current extinction rates are 1000 times higher than natural extinction rates. The culprit of the unprecedented rates? No other than human demand. Habitat loss and fragmentation, natural and wildlife trade (e.g. poaching, fur and bush meat trade) and trades for biomedical research have been the direct reasons as to why many of the animal species are in the brink of extinction.
This list enumerates the ten most endangered animal species in the world. They are icons: living animals that compel people to work for their conservation, raise awareness, and motivate individuals to champion the cause of saving their kind.
1. AMUR LEOPARD
Scientific name: Panthera pardus orientalis
Location: Eastern Russia
Population: Less than 40
A rare leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard, unlike its African counterparts, thrives in temperate forests and harsh winters of Russia. With furs that can grow as much as three inches in the winter season, their unique spotted coats are commonly poached for illegal trade which causes the decline of their population. Male Amur leopards can grow as much as 105 pounds while females are relatively smaller in 95 pounds. Also, the Amur leopards are nocturnal and solitary predators.
2. AMUR TIGER
Scientific name: Panthera tigris altaica
Location: Russian Far East, possibly small border areas of China and North Korea.
Rustic Yellow in color, the Siberian Tiger or the Amur Tiger is among the biggest feline species that inhabited the earth but due to the rampant poaching of their coats and human encroachment of their habitats, they are doomed for extinction. With more Amur in American zoos than in the wild, anti-poaching and other conservation efforts have stabilized its population in the last decade.
3. MOUNTAIN GORILLA
Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei
Location: Central Africa
Existing in only two known regions—in the Virunga Volcanoes Region in the Uganda-Rwanda-Democratic of Congo borders and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, these highly social primate have been threatened by poaching of their bush meat and are usually killed by traps and snares intended for other animals. Habitat loss is considered one of the most severe threats to mountain gorilla population as the forests where these gorillas live are surrounded by rapidly increasing human settlement.
4. GIANT PANDA
Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Location: South-central China
Population: 1,600 as of 2004
Appearing in the World Wildlife Fund logo, the Giant panda is the rarest among the bear family and among the world’s most threatened animals. With its well loved image all over the world, it has evolved into a universal symbol of conservation movement and has become China’s unofficial national icon. Threatened by poaching of its soft fur since ancient times, its population has also been put to a halt by habitat loss and a very low birth rate.
5. BLACK RHINO
Scientific name: Diceros bicornis
Location: Southwest Africa
Depicted in ancient European drawing in caves, the black rhinoceros was widespread in African savannas and throughout Asia in historical times. Back in the 19th century these savannas have been home to plentiful black rhino that it wasn’t impossible to encounter a dozen of them a day. But due to the relentless poaching of their horns and the overwhelming demand for it used for medicines or ornaments, over 90% of the black rhino’s population has been wiped out just in a span of 70 years.
6. BONOBO APE
Scientific name: Pan paniscus
Location: Central Africa
Population: 5,000 to 60,000
Arguably humans’ closest relatives, Bonobo apes are endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Compared to chimpanzees, Bonobo apes have longer legs, shorter arms and a narrower mid-section. They also exhibit a rounder skull and flatter face. The many years of civil unrest in DRC have stopped conservation efforts for the Bonobo apes which are threatened by poaching and habitat loss.
7. SUMATRAN ORANGUTAN
Scientific name: Pongo abelii
Location: Northern Sumatra
Found only in the islands of Sumatra in Indonesia, the Sumatran orangutan was once widespread in the country in the 19th century. Over the last 75 years due to extensive human encroachment in their habitat, it is believed that 80% of their overall population has diminished. The population has also been affected by 2004 tsunami that struck the island as logging of forest trees has increased for the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure.
8. HAWKSBILL TURTLE
Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
Location: Throughout the tropics and subtropics
Population: 8,000 nesting females
One of the six critically endangered marine tortoises in the world, the Hawksbill Turtle is threatened by the loss of feeding and nesting habitat, excessive egg collection, poaching for their meat and shell, fishing-related mortality and coastal development. They are primarily found in coral reefs in the Indian, Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean.
9. ASIAN ELEPHANT
Scientific name: Elephas maximus
Location: India and Southeast Asia
Population: 25,000 to 32,000
Revered by many Asian cultures, the Asian elephants have been affected by the conflict of space against human inhabitants, poaching for ivory and human appetite for their meat and hides. The destruction of forests due to logging, encroachment, slash-and-burn and many others have served as threat to the survival of the elephant. Since the 1950’s, its overall population has been reduced to 50% with over 370 elephants and 1,150 people dying between 1980 and 2003 due to human-elephant conflicts in Northeast India alone.
10. FIN WHALE
Scientific name: Balaenoptera physalus
Location: All the world's oceans
Nicknamed “razorback” because of its distinct ridge, the Fin whale is the second largest animal on Earth. But because of rampant commercial whaling, these gigantic mammals are on the endangered species list. Between 1904 and 1979, over 750,000 whales have been killed in the Southern Hemisphere alone. Though the International Whaling Commission has issued a moratorium in the commercial hunting of whales, Iceland, Norway and Japan have resumed whale hunting.