Some species don’t have what it takes to survive in today’s rapidly changing world. For these three species, it seems like the whole world is out to get them. Environmental changes, man-made destruction, poaching and cutthroat predators are just some of the things that these species have to worry about on a daily basis. While scientists and conservationists continue to do everything they can to prevent total extinction, the odds are pretty slim for the remaining members of these withering species. Learn the how and why behind today’s most endangered animals.
Native to the forests of southeast Russia and northeast China, the Amur leopard has been having a rough few decades. The species has been considered critically endangered since 1996. Conservationists estimate that there are only about 60 Amur leopards left throughout all of Asia.
These leopards are significantly more choosy about where they call home than most animals. They like to perch in mountainous caves near a river basin. Currently, all the remaining Amur leopards are thought to inhabit Primorsky Krai, a Russian Province near the Chinese border. They hunt in the evening and in the early morning, preferring to spend the hottest hours of the day out of the sun.
Amur leopards have a number of significant threats to contend with in the wild. Poaching continues to be by far the most severe. Numerous leopard skins have been confiscated in both Russia and China. Local villagers have also been killing off a significant portion of the Amur leopard population in recent years. Many hunt out of necessity for food, killing Amur leopards for less competition in the wild. Others may try to sell the animal’s illustrious coat illegally.
Deforestation is also a major concern for the Amur leopard population. Many local farmers have a habit of setting fire to the land in order to kill off insects and convert forestlands into usable fields.
While not always black, the black rhino has seen its fair share of hardships over the last few years. Three black rhino subspecies were officially decreed extinct in 2011. Current estimates put the black rhino population at less than 6,000. There are still five remaining subspecies left in the black rhino family, but sadly those numbers are rapidly declining.
They dwell throughout eastern and southern Africa including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya. Two things usually govern the behavior of black rhinos: food and water. They are not known to be territorial, choosing instead to roam wherever they have the best chance of finding food. They also don’t put too much emphasis on personal relationships, as they are often seen wandering solo.
Black rhino horns continue to fetch a high price throughout much of Africa. Endless war and international conflict have led to an increase in poaching and illegal hunting in the African continent. Demand for rhino horns went through the roof in the 1970s. Conservationists believe that the black rhino population declined a whopping 96% between 1970 and 1992.
Currently, rhino horn sells for an astonishing $30,000 per pound. To make matters worse, hunting and poaching laws are more difficult to enforce throughout Africa, as southern nations continue to face a wealth of imminent threats including the ongoing AIDS epidemic and relentless civil war.
The Bornean orangutan is in short supply these days. Despite being one of the most intelligent species on Earth, the orangutan population is quickly vanishing throughout the island of Borneo. You’ll find them nestled in the tropical forests of the Bornean lowlands. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Bornean orangutan population has declined by over 50% over the last 60 years, with only around 50,000 animals still in existence.
A lack of access to a sustainable habitat is the biggest threat facing the Bornean orangutan today. 55% of the species’ habitat has been destroyed or repurposed in the last 20 years alone. Increased lodging and wildfire on the island are two of the main culprits. Palm oil plantations have also grown considerably in Borneo over the last several decades, restricting the orangutan population to a few remote areas.
Villagers have also been known to hunt orangutans, selling their remains in the bushmeat trade. Although killing orangutans is illegal in Indonesia, the country rarely enforces such laws. If nothing can be done to safeguard these precious lands, the Bornean orangutan will be extinct before we know it.
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