I’m a bona fide animal lover and have always been interested in the natural world and its creature inhabitants. Following on from 10 Most Endangered: Marine Animals, in this next part of my Most Endangered series I wanted to focus on some of the most critically endangered land mammals on Earth.
It’s estimated that there are 6,500 species of living mammals on our planet. Of these, around 8.6% are currently listed as endangered. The main threats to endangered mammals are; loss of habitat, deforestation, hunting and the effects of climate change. Climate change has altered weather patterns and influenced natural disasters that cause destruction to land habitats like flooding and wild fires. Other human activities such as poaching, agriculture, construction and infrastructure development also contribute towards the devastation of land mammal populations.
The animals in this list are all in danger of extinction and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN was established in 1948 and has a membership of over 1,400 governmental and non-governmental organizations. The organization work closely with the United Nations (UN) and play a key role in the implementation of several international codes and conventions.
However, many Governments perpetually seek to weaken the IUCN and UN codes by making adjustments in legislation that benefit their agendas. So despite many of these species being closely monitored, or having protected status, they remain in jeopardy.
The land mammals I have chosen for this article are some of the most at risk in the world. Read on to learn about their populations and plights in 10 Most Endangered: Land Mammals
1. Javan Rhinoceros – Population: 75
The last Javan rhinoceros population lives in Ujung Kulon National Park at the western tip of Java in Indonesia. The decline of the Javan rhino is primarily because of poaching for their horns which are highly valued in Chinese medicine. The population is restricted to a single, small area and they are susceptible to disease and inbreeding depression. Conservation geneticists believe a population of at least 100 rhinos would be needed to preserve the genetic diversity of the species. Conservation groups have been trying to save the species by creating new habitats and redistributing their remaining populations.
2. Amur Leopard – Population: 90
The Amur leopard is native to south-eastern Russia and northern China. The Amur leopard is threatened by poaching, habitat loss and deforestation. Their fur coats are highly valued and their bones are used in traditional Asian medicine. Its natural habitat is mostly threatened by forest fires and road construction. Their gene pool has such low genetic diversity that the population is also at high risk from inbreeding. Conservation efforts for the species have included extensive monitoring and lobbying for better land management of their territories.
3. Saola – Population: 500
The Saola is a large, forest-dwelling bovine mammal native to the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos. It is one of the rarest large terrestrial mammals on Earth and was only discovered in 1992. The Saola has been widely hunted for Chinese medicines, and also their fur and meat. They are at risk of getting caught in snares that are set for other wild animals like deer and boar. Other threats include the effects of a small population size and insufficient conservation resources. Conservation efforts have been mainly focused on protecting the species’ habitat and the removal of poaching snare traps.
4. Sumatran Tiger – Population: 900
The Sumatran tiger is native to Indonesia. Their major threats include; habitat loss due to palm oil and acacia plantations, prey depletion and illegal trade. The Indonesian Forestry Ministry and Australia Zoo have a program to conserve the species. Their program includes wild conservation, reducing conflicts between tigers and humans, and rehabilitation and relocating of animals. Over $210 million has been invested into tiger protection law-enforcement activities that include forest ranger patrols. Law-enforcement activities by the Global Tiger Recovery Plan are also contributing towards their conservation.
5. Mountain Gorilla – Population: 1000
Mountain gorillas are found in the mountains of Uganda in central Africa. They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their decline is mostly due to poaching, habitat loss, disease and human conflict. Gorilla populations are slow to recover as they have a low reproductive rate. Females only give birth every four to six years. Mountain gorilla conservation efforts have had successes and have seen slow increases in their population. Conservation is based around protective legislation, protection of the species’ habitat and prevention of diseases.
6. Giant Sable Antelope – Population: 1000
The Giant Sable antelope is a rare subspecies of the Sable antelope. They are found in the region between the Cuango and Luando Rivers of Angola on the west coast of Southern Africa. Their status was listed as Critically Endangered in 1996 and has maintained since then. The most critical issue that has affected the Giant Sable in recent years is widespread, uncontrolled poaching. The Giant Sable Conservation Project (GSCP) is working to re-establish viable wild populations from the few remaining animals. The project has constructed a fenced sanctuary in Cangandala National Park where hunting is forbidden and there is hope these efforts will protect the future of the species.
7. Sumatran Elephant – Population: 2500
The Sumatran elephant is a subspecies of the Asian elephant, and they are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. During the past 25 years, these endangered animals have lost half of their overall population. They are extinct from 70% of their original range as a result of deforestation. Poaching for ivory is another of the creatures biggest threats. The animal is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Organizations like the Sumatran Elephant Conservation Initiative are supporting Indonesian conservationists to obtain grants to help protect the species and also provide emergency funding to local conservation centres.
8. Black Rhino – Population: 5500
The Black rhinoceros is native to eastern and southern Africa. Since 1960 the population of Black rhinos has declined by 98%. Extensive hunting of the species and loss of habitat led to this rapid decline and their near extinction. In recent years there has been an increasing demand for rhino horn in Asia that has led to record-high poaching incidents all over Africa. Black rhinos have two horns, as opposed to one, which make them extra lucrative targets for illegal trade. Black rhino conservation is ongoing with focuses on relocation of the species to better habitats and encouragement of new breeding populations.
9. Red Panda – Population: 10,000
Red panda are found in the eastern Himalayas and south-western China. Their numbers are declining due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching. They often get killed when they get caught in hunting traps set for game animals. Their distinctive fur is highly prized in China and Myanmar which has led to commercial hunting. Conservation of the species is centred around monitoring, habitat protection and restoration. Also groups are working to educate communities and promote anti-poaching initiatives.
10. Borneo Orang-utan – Population: 100,000
Borneo orang-utan’s are endemic to the island of Borneo in South East Asia. The orang-utan’s habitat has been reduced considerably by deforestation. Over the last 60 years, the population of Borneo orang-utans has dropped by 50% due to ongoing deforestation in Borneo, illegal trade and hunting. Conservation organizations focus on saving Borneo orang-utans in immediate danger through rescue, rehabilitation, and re-introduction to protected rainforests. They are also working to protect and restore wild habitat by working alongside native communities.
The animals on this list are some of nature’s most awe-inspiring and great. The fact that they face imminent extinction should serve as a wake-up-call to Governments and people around the world. It can’t be denied that without human activities their populations wouldn’t be declining so rapidly.
Conservation charities, NGO’s and organizations like the IUCN and UN are making good efforts to protect these species. Through science and research, community outreach, lobbying for changes in legislation as well as front-line patrolling and protecting habitats. But with limited resources and slow, high-level engagement in natural issues, their work is very difficult. However it’s not over for some of these species and throughout history many animals have been saved from the brink of extinction.
I believe it’s a fundamental responsibility of mankind to protect our natural world. Through increased awareness, conversation and global funding many animals can be saved from extinction. I am writing the Most Endangered series to help raise awareness around the topic. If you would like to help spread the word please comment and share this article.
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