Environmental issues are a major interest of Kelley's, especially pollution, climate change, deforestation, and endangered species.
What is a fish without a river? What is a bird without a tree to nest in? What is an Endangered Species Act without any enforcement mechanism to ensure their habitat is protected?
— Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington
Some of these poor creatures may go extinct before you finish this article
Most of the animals on this list are endangered, but some are critically endangered, a species of animal, insect or plant that’s likely to become extinct unless something is done to keep them from disappearing forever. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists species that are vulnerable, threatened or endangered, as well as ones that are critically endangered. As of 2018, the IUCN listed 4,584 endangered animals throughout the world.
The surviving number of some of these animals may only be in the hundreds, while others could be in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, prompting one to think there’s little to worry about. But the world is changing very quickly these days because of overpopulation, political strife, deforestation, wildfires, dwindling sources of fresh water and climate change, so people shouldn’t stop worrying about these beleaguered animals.
Also keep in mind this compilation is written in no particular order, because it's very difficult to ascertain how endangered these animals actually are. Be that as it may, the last three entries on it could represent the most endangered animals on the planet.
Please keep reading!
1. Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
The largest fish in the sea, growing from 40 feet to 60 feet in length and weighing around 30,000 pounds, the whale shark also has a very long lifespan—80 to 130 years. Swimming only in tropical seas, the whale shark is a filter feeder that draws plankton into its gullet. This species is considered endangered by the IUCN but there are currently no reliable estimates how many exist in the wild. Threats to whale sharks include hunting—legal or otherwise. In waters off China, every year hundreds of these animals are killed for their fins, skins and oil. Another danger to these sharks includes plastic pollution: when feeding, these animals may inadvertently suck plastic into their innards, possibly bringing about the demise of these gigantic marine creatures.
2. Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguous)
Found in parts of Central and South America, the great green macaw, aka the great military macaw, is the third heaviest species of macaw in the world. Listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, the numbers of great green macaws in the world may be increasing or decreasing—according to reports from various countries. In 2016, the American Bird Conservancy counted 3,500 of these birds in the wild. Threats to the great green macaw include habitat loss; during the twentieth century, Costa Rica lost 90 per cent of its original forests. These birds are also killed because many farmers consider them pests; countless birds are also captured for the pet trade. On the positive side, many macaws still exist in game reserves and, at times, captive birds are released into the wild.
3. Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
Decidedly creepy looking, the aye-aye is a type of long-fingered lemur found on the island of Madagascar. Superstition has it that seeing an aye-aye will give a person bad luck; in fact, some believe the aye-aye is evil and, when seen, should be killed on sight—particularly if the aye-aye points its narrowest finger at you! Such folk beliefs haven’t helped the survival of the species, of course, neither has massive habitat loss on an island that’s lost over 90 per cent of it original forest. In 2014, this creature was listed as endangered, because its survival on Madagascar is uncertain; but, fortunately, the species can be found in zoos throughout the world, so there’s hope for the survival of this scary looking critter!
4. Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
The blue whale is the largest whale in the world and the largest creature—by weight—ever to exist on the planet. An adult blue whale can be as long as 100 feet and weight 200 tons; and they can live as long as 80 to 90 years. There are also as many as six to seven subspecies found throughout the oceans of the world. In 2018, the blue whale was listed as endangered by the IUCN and the approximate number of such animals is 10,000 to 25,000. Since 1966 the hunting of all blue whales has been prohibited but some hunting continued into the 1970s. Threats to the species are ship strikes, plastic and chemical pollution, and climate change.
5. Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
Certainly one of the cutest animals on the planet, the red panda is an arboreal mammal found in the Eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It’s also one of the most popular animals, as its likeness appears in many animated films, video games and comic books; and music bands and companies use it in an iconic way. So, it’s probably not going extinct anytime soon, as long as its habitat is protected and zoos throughout the world continue raising it in captivity. Its major threats are habitat loss, disease and poaching; the animals are hunted for their fur and trafficked as pets. In 2008, the IUCN estimated the global population of red pandas is around 10,000, but reportedly the number of wild pandas in China has decreased by 40 per cent in the last 50 years.
6. Giant Freshwater Stingray (Urogymnus polylepis)
Not much is known about the giant freshwater stingray—whether it ever ventures into the ocean or how many of them exist in the wild, for instance—though enough is known that the IUCN has labeled it as an endangered species and, in Thailand, it’s considered critically endangered. Found in fresh water areas of Southeast Asia and Borneo, it’s both the largest freshwater fish in the world and the largest species of stingray. Its threats are many: overfishing, pollution, habitat loss caused by deforestation and damming. The decline of this species in some areas is as much as 95 per cent!
7. Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia)
Found in the wooded areas of southeastern Australia, this beautiful songbird is a critically endangered animal; it’s also considered a flagship species because its existence affects that of many other animals. A close relative of red and yellow wattlebirds, the regent honeyeater feeds on the nectar of eucalyptus and mistletoe trees, as well as the insects found in those trees. Unfortunately, Australia’s highly destructive wildfires of 2019-2020 torched much of the habitat of these birds, and as of 2021 only about 250 of these animals survive in the wild. In 2020, though, a captive breeding program of 20 birds began, with the hope that captive and wild birds would mate. But will this effort be too little too late?
8. Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)
Critically imperiled, this species of western toad survives only in the wetlands of the Dixie Valley in the state of Nevada of the US. This species is fairly abundant within its very small range, but some environmentalists suggest the development of a proposed geothermal plant may damage the habitat of these frogs. But before the power plant can be constructed, the Bureau of Land Management must issue a permit per the dictates of an Aquatic Resources Monitoring and Mitigation Plan. Interestingly, the Railroad Valley toad is another species of western toad in Nevada that could be adversely affected by the development of oil reserves in the region.
9. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
The fastest land animal in the world—capable of sprinting as much as 80 mph—the cheetah is listed as endangered by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, while the IUCN designates it as vulnerable. Per an article in the September 2021 issue of National Geographic, there are fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs left in the world. Habitat loss is a major reason for their decline in numbers, and cheetahs are often captured and trafficked illegally in the Middle East, where it’s considered chic to keep pet cheetahs and perhaps use them as “hunting leopards.” Cheetahs have been kept in captivity since the First Dynasty in Egypt, some 5,000 years ago. Apex predators, cheetahs nevertheless suffer from predation by lions and hyenas, and are the victims of many other hazards.
10. Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis)
The only fresh water cetacean in China, the Yangtze finless porpoise is critically endangered. Current estimates show that only about 1,000 of the Yangtze finless porpoise exist; but, as of 2014, only 505 animals were counted in the Yangtze River, showing a great increase in the death rate. Threats to these animals include an increase of vessel traffic on Chinese rivers and lakes, causing death by propeller strikes, as well as pollution from sewage and industrial chemicals; illegal fishing with gillnets; habitat loss from sand mining; death in by-catch by unwary fisherman; and the construction of lake and river dams. The Chinese government is doing what it can to save this species, but its threats are daunting indeed!
Please note that the only other fresh water cetacean known to have existed in China is the baiji or Chinese river dolphin, listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct since 2002, the last time a live specimen of the species was spotted.
11. Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)
Wouldn’t everybody like to pet a Galapagos penguin? These adorable birds are considered endangered by the IUCN, which estimates there are about 1,200 adult Galapagos penguins in existence. They can survive in the tropics only because of the cool Humboldt and Cromwell Currents. The only penguin found north of the Equator, the Galapagos Penguin is the rarest penguin in the world; it’s also the second smallest, and therefore suffers greatly from predation. Invasive species, such as cats, dog and rats on Fernandina Island and Isabela Island, the main areas where the penguins live, is also a daunting problem that needs to be addressed on a continuous basis for many animals in the Galapagos Archipelago.
12. Mindora Dwarf Buffalo (Bubalus mindorensis)
Also known as a tamaraw, the Mindora dwarf buffalo can be found on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, though only in a few separate spots. The tamaraw is smaller and stockier than the common water buffalo and once thrived on the large island of Luzon, but it has gone extinct there since the Pleistocene. Because of habitat loss, illegal hunting, viral disease and logging, since 2000 the IUCN has considered the Mindora dwarf buffalo a critically endangered species. Current estimates show the wild population of tamaraws is from 30 to 200 animals. Interestingly, considered an important symbol of the Philippines, an image of the tamaraw appears on a one-peso coin.
13. Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)
A cousin of the Tasmanian tiger, the numbat or walpurti is a marsupial anteater that feeds almost exclusively on termites; each adult must consume up to 20,000 termites per day! Formerly distributed throughout southern and Western Australia, numbats can now be found only in the Dryandra Woodland and the Perup Nature Reserve. Numbats are preyed upon by various reptiles and raptors, and invasive red foxes and feral cats have also reduced their numbers. Current estimates suggest that less than 1,000 numbats exist in the wild. Fortunately, this endangered species has been reintroduced into regions of South Australia, as well as the Newhaven Sanctuary and the Northern Territory, although these latter two efforts have met with failure.
14. California Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita)
The state fresh water fish of California, this subspecies of rainbow trout lives in the southern Sierra Nevada of California, specifically the South Fork of the Little Kern River, as well as Golden Trout Creek. Listed as critically imperiled in 2013, the golden trout thrives in high altitude areas of the Sierra Nevada, even elevations as high as 10,000 to 12,500 feet. Generally a small fish when found in creeks, golden trout transplanted to lakes have reached 11 pounds in weight. The primary danger to these golden trout is hybridization caused by stocked rainbow trout and non-native brown trout, as well as habitat loss caused by drought and climate change. By some estimates, this subspecies of trout may go extinct within 45 to 50 years.
15. African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)
Also called the painted dog or Cape hunting dog, the African wild dog is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates put the population of these wild canines at about 6,600 adults in 39 separate groups scattered across the arid plains of Africa. Threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans, inbreeding and disease, these dogs are listed as endangered by the IUCN. These wolf-like canids feed on antelopes, springbok and other deer-like creatures, which the dogs chase until exhausted and then attack. Since predators play an integral part in animal ecosystems, the extinction of African wild dogs would have a profound effect across Africa. Interestingly, the San people (Bushmen) consider these dogs to have folkloric importance.
An installment of Nova on PBS entitled “Science of Fear” reveals the important role predators play in the various ecosystems of Africa and, for that matter, everywhere on earth. Shown on the program, African wild dogs are re-introduced into the Gorongosa region of Mozambique, where predatory mammals were almost completely eliminated by civil war in the 1970s.
16. Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes)
The black-footed ferret, also known as the American polecat, listed as extinct in the wild as recently as 1996, are considered endangered as of 2008 because their populations are small and scattered; but an ex situ breeding program and subsequent reintroduction into the wild have saved these creatures from extinction. Living on the Great Plains from Canada to Mexico, where they hunt prairie dogs, whose numbers have plummeted in recent years, ferret populations have declined as well. Ferrets are also endangered because of habitat loss and diseases such as Yersinia pestis (black plague) and canine distemper, as well as predation by birds of prey. At present, about 1,200 mature ferrets exist in the wild. Since these cute, cuddly animals are greatly susceptible to many factors, their numbers could drop precipitously very quickly, so keep your fingers crossed regarding their long-term survival in the wild!
Astonishingly, the January 2022 issue of National Geographic revealed that cloning was recently used to propagate a ferret. Using the cells of a ferret that died 30 years ago, this is the first replication of an endangered species in North America.
17. Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons)
Endemic to six islands in the central Philippines archipelago but probably extinct on as many as four of them (the islands of Negros and Panay may have viable populations), the Visayan warty pig is often called a wild pig or forest pig. It is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN because of habitat loss from slash and burn cultivation and commercial logging. About 95 per cent of the pig’s historical range has been eliminated by farmers growing crops, upon which the pigs now feed, greatly increasing hunting by farmers who don’t want pigs eating their crops! Fortunately for this species of wild pigs, they have been successfully raised in captivity.
18. Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)
An adult southern bluefin tuna can weigh well over 500 pounds, so these monstrous predatory fish can provide prime fishing for avid anglers. The southern bluefin tuna is also caught commercially in great numbers, though fishing for such has been reduced by 80 per cent into the 2010s, it is nevertheless considered an overfished species by the Commission for the Conservation of the Southern Bluefin Tuna, which attempts to regulate the commercial utilization of this global fishery. Aquaculture has also been used to raise these fish, but this industry has created much ocean pollution and has many detractors. Also, although millions of these fish exist, the IUCN has listed it as an extremely endangered species because of overfishing, pollution and climate change.
19. Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
The Bengal tiger, aka the Mainland Asian tiger, lives in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. In 2014, some 2,500 to 3,000 Bengal tigers existed in these countries, though none of the tiger habitat zones within its range are considered large enough to support more than 250 tigers. Poaching and habitat loss are listed as reasons for the decline of the species. Of course, as many people probably know, even though tigers are considered a charismatic species, they are endangered throughout the world. The Panthera genus includes the Siberian tiger and other subspecies such as the Sumatran tiger. Fortunately, since many conservation programs exist for tigers, namely the Save Tigers Now Foundation, sponsored by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFN), they may survive in the wild for decades. But beyond that, who knows?
20. Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus)
This strange, sticky brown beast is both the largest amphibian and salamander in the world, growing as long as six feet and weighing as much as 100 pounds. Found in Chinese streams and lakes, this huge salamander has become quite rare in the wild; since the 1950s its numbers have declined by 80 per cent because of various human causes – habitat loss, dam construction, pollution, agricultural runoff, deforestation and over-hunting (these creatures are considered a delicacy and are also used in traditional Chinese medicine). The Chinese government has created several programs designed to protect the Chinese giant salamander but most have met with little success. However, the Chinese government plans to breed tens of thousands of these animals in captivity for scientific research, so they will probably survive in that way for years to come.
21. Gharial (Gavialus gangeticus)
The gharial, a fish-eating crocodile found in the northern reaches of the Indian Subcontinent, has suffered a precipitous decline in numbers since the 1930s. Now very close to extinction, recent estimates show that only about 100 to 300 gharials survive in the wild. Growing to a length of 15 to 20 feet, gharials exist in the river systems of Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Unfortunately, the human population explosion in these countries has created grave anthropogenic hazards for the gharials, particularly habitat loss, pollution, hydroelectric projects, poaching and death by fishing nets. Fortunately, gharial conservation programs exist, as the Indian government is dedicated to saving the species, before they go the way of the dodo or passenger pigeon.
22. Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)
One of two subspecies of eastern gorilla, mountain gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN; as of 2018, only about 1,000 mountain gorillas exist in two separate populations in mountainous areas of Central Africa, where three national parks can be found. Interestingly, mountain gorillas have thick fur because their habitat is located high in volcanic zones, some 7,000 to 14,000 feet in elevation, where it’s generally misty and cool, if not cold, and overcast. An adult male mountain gorilla can weigh up to 500 pounds and eat 75 lbs of vegetation, fruit and insects per day. Unfortunately, mountain gorillas are endangered by many threats: poaching, habitat loss, disease, war and political unrest. Simply put, mountain gorillas will survive as long as they’re protected by people and from the trouble people may bring.
23. Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta)
Perhaps the most widely known of all the lemurs, the ring-tailed lemur, along with virtually all lemurs, is critically endangered; in fact, 95 per cent of all lemurs are at least endangered. The main reason for this species collapse is that all lemurs are found only on the island of Madagascar, which is becoming more and more deforested - by the hour, it seems. At present, only about 2,000 ring-tailed lemurs survive in the wild, due to habitat loss, hunting, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Fortunately for this species of lemurs, they reproduce easily in captivity, so their numbers are high in zoos. Therefore, prospects for reintroducing these beautiful creatures into the wild will at least be a viable option.
24. Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
Also known as the hooked-lip rhinoceros, the black rhinoceros is critically endangered mainly because its horns are highly prized by people who would use them in traditional Chinese medicine, even though no medicinal use for the horns has been proven by science (the horns are little more than fingernail cells). Nevertheless, rhino horn is presently worth more than its weight in gold! Rhino horns are also used for making knife and dagger handles, the demand for which causing a collapse of the black rhino population by 95 per cent from 1970 to 1992. Tragically, many other subspecies of African rhinos have gone extinct. Now black rhinos are heavily guarded in wildlife preserves; otherwise, they’d be gone by now too. Fortunately, the southern white rhinos are doing fairly well; more than 20,000 were alive in 2015.
25. Dhole (Cuon alpinus)
The dhole, aka the Asiatic wild dog, is found in mountainous areas of Southeast Asia, India and China. A relative of dogs, coyotes, wolves, jackals and other canids, dholes are greatly endangered; only about 2,500 exist in the wild. Notably, dholes once lived in parts of Central Asia, Europe and North America from 12,000 to 18,000 years ago. Notably, dholes have declined in numbers because of the following reasons: habitat loss, fewer prey animals, competition from other species, death from farmers and pastoralists, and contagious diseases and parasites spread by domestic dogs. Interestingly, dholes are nearly untamable, though the young are docile and can play with domestic dogs until adulthood.
26. Brown Spider Monkey (Ateles hybridus)
The brown spider monkey, found in northern Colombia and northeastern Venezuela, is on the list of The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates. It lives in old-growth rain forests, about 98 per cent of which has disappeared from this animal’s range. Tragically, 80 per cent of these creatures no longer exist. Like most monkeys, the brown spider monkey feeds primarily on vegetation and fruit, but will eat just about anything if that’s all there is to eat. Interestingly, this species has blue eyes, very unusual for spider monkeys. Greatly endangered, their estimated population is unknown.
27. Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
A kind of monitor lizard, the Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard; an adult may grow to ten feet long and weigh 150 lbs. It exists on five small Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar. In fact, the Komodo dragon is the only large carnivorous animal on the aforementioned islands; it’s also a relic of the megafauna that died out after the end of the Pleistocene. Astonishingly, female Komodo dragons can produce offspring by parthenogenesis; that is, they can reproduce without their eggs being fertilized. As of 2013, the wild population of Komodo dragons was assessed at about 3,000 individuals. As long as the habitat on those five islands is maintained and their prey doesn’t disappear, Komodo dragons could last for many years to come.
28. Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis)
Although the range for the Siamese crocodile is large, its numbers have dramatically decreased in recent years. Found in Southeast Asia and parts of Indonesia, the Siamese crocodile can grow to 10 feet long, though hybrids can grow much larger in captivity. They exist in a wide range of habitats—rivers, streams, lakes, oxbow lakes, swamps and marshlands. Curiously, while extinct in 99 per cent of its former range, Siamese crocodiles are raised by the thousands on crocodile farms in Cambodia. Loss of habitat is the main reason for the demise of these crocodiles; other reasons are the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in rice growing; a rise in the cattle population; warfare; dam construction; and drowning in fishing nets. The wild population of Siamese crocodiles is unknown.
29. Mexican Wolf (Canus lupus baileyi)
The Mexican wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf and the most endangered gray wolf of North America. Once considered a threat to livestock, these wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned. In fact, in the 1970s the Mexican wolf had such low numbers that it was declared an endangered species, and then the American and Mexican governments captured the few wolves left in the wild and took them into captivity. Then, in 1998, the captive Mexican wolves were re-introduced into parts of Arizona and New Mexico. By 2017, some 140 Mexican wolves were living in parts of Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico, as well as 240 individuals kept in breeding programs in Mexico.
30. Borneo Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)
Also known as a Borneo pygmy elephant, the Borneo elephant is a subspecies of the Asian elephant. Because of widespread habitat loss on the island of Borneo and parts of Malaysia, the number of the Borneo elephants has declined dramatically since the 1980s, placing the species on the IUCN Red List, which designates them as a critically endangered species. Generally smaller than African elephants, the Borneo elephant has become domesticated in many areas, though this closeness to people has brought it into numerous conflicts, leading to hundreds of fatalities of both people and elephants every year. At present, in some areas, only 20 to 80 Borneo elephants survive in the wild.
31. Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)
The orangutan, whose name means “person of the forest,” exists on the Islands of Borneo and Sumatra and comprises three separate species of the world’s great apes. Orangutans live almost entirely in trees and feed on fruit, vegetation, honey, bird eggs and insects. Considered very intelligent for apes, orangutans are often studied for their ability to make tools and use them in clever ways; they also know how to treat their own illnesses by eating certain plants, types of soil or minerals. (For good reason, in the Planet of the Apes movies orangutans are shown as the smartest apes.) Because of habitat loss, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, orangutans are listed as critically endangered. Even though estimates showed that 100,000 existed in 2016, their numbers have declined by 80 per cent in the last 75 years. According to current estimates, less than 50,000 may be left by 2025.
32. Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)
Another animal on the IUCN Red List, the Iberian lynx lives in the Andalusia region of Spain and feeds primarily on the European rabbit. Unfortunately, the numbers of such rabbits declined sharply in the 1990s because of diseases such as myxomatosis and habitat loss. By the 2000s only 100 Iberian lynxes survived in the wild. But, because of various conservation measures, the restocking of rabbits and captive breeding programs, the number of Iberian lynxes increased to 326 by 2012. But such low numbers of lynxes could be wiped out by disease, natural disasters or other catastrophes. Fortunately, the Spanish National Commission for the Protection of Nature began the Lynx Ex Situ Conservation Breeding Program, which could help stabilize and increase the Iberian lynx population.
According to the article “The Comeback Cats” in the June 2022 issue of National Geographic, since the beginning of the Life LynxConnect program in 2020—which is creating 10 new wildlife corridors—the number of Iberian lynx in the wild is now over 1,100. To date, more than $90 million has been spent on saving the Iberian lynx!
33. Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus eodipus)
A New World monkey found in the tropical forests of northwestern Colombia, the cotton-top tamarin, is very small—an adult weighs only one pound; and perhaps because of their tiny stature, about 40,000 of them were used for biomedical research before 1976, though now they’re protected from such experimentation by international law. At present, the cotton-top tamarin is greatly endangered because 95 per cent of its original habitat has been deforested and given over to palm oil farming, dam building and cattle grazing. Tamarins are also poached by dealers in the illegal wildlife trade. Consequently, the cotton-top tamarin is one of the most endangered primates in the world; only about 6,000 are left in the wild.
34. Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)
New mammal species are found only from time to time. In 1992, the WWFN announced the discovery of the saola, aka the Asian unicorn, a new bovid species found in the Annamite Range of Vietnam. (It had been 50 years since a large mammal species had been discovered in the wild!) Also, because of the saola’s unusual physical characteristics, it was given its own genus, Pseudoryx, not an every day occurrence in such animal matters! Moreover, since the saola was only recently discovered and exists only in remote forested areas, not much is known about it. Therefore, its surviving numbers can only be guessed at, though wildlife authorities know enough about it to designate it as a critically endangered species.
35. Red-vented Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia)
The IUCN lists 416 birds as endangered species as of September 2016, and one of these avian animals is the red-vented cockatoo, which is found on many of the smaller islands in the Philippines. In the 1990s, the red-vented cockatoo had a wild population of no more than 4,000 birds, but by 2008 the number was less than 1,000, making it one of the most endangered birds on the planet. These cockatoos are disappearing because of habitat loss and illegal trapping for the wildlife black market. Also, these beleaguered birds are often killed as pests, as they sometimes feed on agricultural commodities. Fortunately, there is a captive population of red-vented cockatoos.
36. Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)
Found on the island Madagascar, which has lost 90 per cent of its native forest over the centuries since humans first arrived 2,350 years ago, the radiated tortoise, among many other native animals, suffer because of human activity. The radiated tortoise is critically endangered because of habitat loss, poaching and exploitation by the pet trade. Interestingly, the radiated tortoise is considered one of the prettiest tortoises in the world; the radiated patterns and pyramid-shaped domes on its carapace are truly eye-catching. Also, like many tortoises, it has great longevity; one radiated tortoise lived 188 years. Unfortunately, in recent years, smugglers have captured hundreds—even thousands—of these tortoises and shipped them to other countries. The surviving number of radiated tortoises is unknown.
37. California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
Essentially a vulture and the largest land bird in North America, the California condor went extinct in 1987! Actually the surviving birds, some 27 of them, were captured and placed in a captive breeding program. Then in 1991 some of the remaining condors were reintroduced into the wild, specifically remote areas of California, Utah, Arizona and northern Mexico. Now, as of 2021, about 500 condors remain alive, in captivity or the wild. So the California condor is one of the rarest birds in the world. Primary reasons for its demise are poaching, habitat loss and lead poisoning. Interestingly, the California condor is the sacred bird of the Chumash Indians of Southern California.
38. North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
This species of baleen whale got its name because it seemed the “right” whale to be killed by whalers. Due to its easy-going nature, and the fact that it stays near land and its meat has a high blubber content, allowing it to float long after death, facilitating processing, this 50-foot beast may never have recovered from the days of legal whale hunting; only about 400 such whales exist in the North Atlantic Ocean, its primary habitat. Now protected, the whales are nevertheless often killed by ship strikes or entanglement in fishing gear. Fortunately, in 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service enacted speed restrictions within the whale’s migratory routes to reduce whale collisions with ships.
39. Pangolin (Manis javanica)
Eight known species of pangolins exist in Southeast Asia and in central and southern Africa, but the aforementioned species, found on the island of Java, are considered critically endangered. Essentially armored anteaters, pangolins are the only scaly mammals found in the world. They feed on ants and termites, move slowly, and are therefore easy to capture or kill—but they can curl into a ball when threatened. Pangolins are widely trafficked throughout their range; people want to eat their meat and/or collect their scales, which purportedly have medicinal properties. Two species of pangolin have gone extinct in modern times and other species have gone extinct in times past. How many will survive into the future is anyone’s guess.
40. Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Found near tropical coral reefs throughout the world, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle has been labeled as critically endangered since 1996, their worldwide population declining by 80 per cent in the past 100 to 150 years. Hunted for its meat and beautiful shell, these large sea turtles can weight as much as 300 pounds. They suffer from habitat loss, hunting, large-scale fishing and pollution. Fortunately, since 1970, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have developed plans for protecting the Hawksbill Sea Turtle; and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species prohibits killing or harassing these turtles, as well as the export or import of turtle products.
41. Tooth-billed Pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris)
The tooth-billed pigeon, aka the little dodo bird, is a close relative of the infamous dodo, a large flightless bird which went extinct in 1662 (living on an island when humans show up is the kiss of death for flightless birds.) And the tooth-billed pigeon may go the way of the dodo sooner rather than later, since its numbers are rapidly diminishing. Only found on the island of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, just 70 to 380 individuals still exist in the wild, and no captive population exists. Risks to the bird include: habitat loss, hunting, cyclones, the loss of old-growth trees and predation from invasive species such as cats, pigs, dogs and rats.
42. Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)
Certainly one of the rarest wild cats in the world, the Amur leopard exists in parts of southeastern Russia and northeastern China. Camera trap photos in 2014 and 2015 showed 92 individuals within their northern historic range (other subspecies of the cat may still exist in North or South Korea). The major threats to Amur leopards are daunting: poaching, deforestation, wildfires, commercial projects such as pipelines, diseases such as canine distemper virus and inbreeding. Many programs and strategies, such as importing leopards into areas of low population, are being developed to help ensure the survival of these cats. But only time will tell which options, if any, keep them alive decades into the future.
43. Montane Monkey-faced Bat (Pteralopex pulchra)
One of many species of monkey-faced bats found in the islands of the South Pacific, this species is only found in mountainous regions of Guadalcanal, the scene of fierce fighting during WW II, and one of the six largest islands in the Solomon Islands. Discovered by mammalogist Tim Flannery in 1991, this bat is one of the smallest and perhaps the prettiest of all monkey-faced bats; it has a sagittal crest, massive incisors, black wings and striking red eyes. Unfortunately, Flannery found only one of these bats, known as a holotype, and experts think there are probably no more than 50 adults alive—or maybe the species has gone extinct.
44. Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus)
Also called a night parrot or owl parrot, the kakapo resembles a cross between a parrot and an owl is the only extant species of flightless parrot on the planet. These nocturnal birds, which grow to about two feet long, are extremely rare; only about 140 individuals survive - and all of them have names! Once found throughout New Zealand before the Polynesians arrived 700 years ago, Kakapos now exist on just two small islands—Codfish/Whenua Hou and Anchor—both of which located off the southern coast of New Zealand. These islands are kept predator-free—no cats, rats or dogs are allowed—maintaining an ecological balance for the birds or they’d soon be wiped out. So kakapos could survive for many years, but their genetic diversity is very low, making their long-term survival uncertain.
45. Rhim Gazelle (Gazella leptoceros)
Also known as the slender-horned gazelle or pale gazelle, the rhim gazelle lives in northern parts of the Sahara Desert, countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Although well-adapted to life in the desert, this animal is considered an endangered species because only 300 to 600 exist in the wild, per estimates by the IUCN. Incredibly, the rhim gazelle seldom drinks liquid water; it survives by ingesting moisture from various desert plants. Threats to this animal include illegal hunting for its meat and ornamental horns, human encroachment and habitat loss.
46. Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)
Its primary habitat located in the mountainous central region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Vancouver Island marmot is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. In 2003, only 20 to 30 marmots lived in the wild, but recent recovery efforts have increased that number to 250 to 300 animals as of 2015. Marmots have been the subject of a captive breeding program since the 1990s, which has helped repopulate their numbers in the wild. There are a few reasons for the decline of marmots in the wild: climate change, deforestation and increased predation. But, since marmots are easy to breed in captivity, they will probably survive in the wild—as long as they have enough habitat, of course.
47. Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis)
The black-breasted puffleg, a species of hummingbird, lives in the northwestern area of the country of Ecuador, specifically the slopes of the active Pichincha stratovolcano, but may also exist in other nearby regions. It is critically endangered, as only about 300 of them exist in wild habitats, according to IUCN estimates. This hummingbird feeds on nectar and insects and exists in specific, mountainous microhabitats located at about 3,000 meters in elevation. Threats to this very rare and beautiful bird are agricultural expansion, logging, cattle grazing, human-caused, slash and burn fires and natural disasters.
48. Indonesian Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
One of only five species of rhinoceroses in existence, the Javan rhinoceros, once having a range comprising the islands of Java and Sumatra, eastern India, parts of Southeast Asia and China, is very close to extinction; as of 2018 only 50 to 70 of these beasts were extant in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java and none in captivity. More may be alive in other countries but no sightings have been confirmed by experts. Poaching is probably the main reason these ponderous, armored beasts are so rare; their horns are worth about $30,000 per kilogram on the black market, three times more than for the horns of African rhinos. Alarmingly, such a small population of these rhinos could be wiped out by a single disease or natural disaster such as the eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, which is near the Ujung Kulon National Park.
49. Florida Panther (Puma concolor couguar)
In recent times the Florida panther’s habitat has shrunk to five per cent of its historical range, as commercial development in Florida has exploded in recent years. In the 1970s there were about 20 panthers left in the wild, but with various conservation efforts that number climbed to about 240 in 2021. Unfortunately, 240 panthers require 8,000 to 12,000 square miles of habitat to flourish, well more than is now available. Other threats to panthers include disease, vehicular collisions, pollution and inbreeding depression. Introducing cougars from other states has helped mitigate inbreeding but only five cats can be brought in at a time or the habitat will be overloaded. It appears this species of puma may survive for decades to come but only if enough people are dedicated to its survival.
50. Pygmy Raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus)
The pygmy raccoon, aka the Cozumel raccoon, only exists on Cozumel Island, located off the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This raccoon, similar to the common raccoon of mainland North America, is a distinct species of raccoon, primarily because it’s 18 per cent shorter and 45 per cent lighter than the common raccoon, making it a prime example of insular dwarfism. The IUCN lists the pygmy raccoon as critically endangered; only about 250 to 300 of these animals exist in the wild. Threats to the raccoon are disappearing habitat and the introduction of invasive species such as cats and dogs on Cozumel Island. If enough habitat is set aside for this species of raccoon, it may survive in the wild for many years to come.
51. Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis)
Similar in size to the well-known red-tailed hawk of North America, the Galapagos hawk isn’t nearly as numerous; only about 300 birds exist in the wild; in fact, these hawks, apex predators in the Galapagos Archipelago, are now extinct on the islands of Baltra, Daphne, Floreana, San Cristobal and Seymour. The reasons for their sharp decline are invasive species, habitat loss and disturbance by humans. Yet young hawks seem to have little fear of humans. In 1845, Darwin wrote: “A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk out of the branch of a tree." Perhaps Galapagos hawks young and old should learn a healthy fear of humans—if they want to escape total extinction!
52. Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)
The smallest leopard subspecies, the Arabian leopard lives in the Arabian Peninsula, but virtually the entire habitat of the animal is severely fragmented and the only viable population of wild leopards exists in the Dhofar Mountains in southeastern Saudi Arabia. This rugged terrain provides the perfect habitat and prey animals for the Arabian leopard. Nevertheless, this beautiful wild cat was listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2006, when it was estimated that only about 200 exist in the wild. Unfortunately, although the animal is protected in Saudi Arabia, it does not currently live in protected areas. Threats to the animal include habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and killings by herders whose livestock has been hunted by the leopards. Incidentally, the current state of the Arabian leopard can be seen on an episode of the PBS series, Expedition (2020).
53. Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
A species of porpoise, the vaquita titters on the brink of extinction. There may be only 10 or 12 of them left in the wild, per an estimate in March 2018. Consequently, the vaquita is perhaps the most endangered cetacean in the world. The number of vaquitas has diminished precipitously since 1996. The main reason is because the Sea of Cortez, or Gulf of California, has become greatly overfished, and the vaquita is sometimes caught in fishing nets and drowned, just as other dolphins are accidently killed. The Mexican government has spent tens of millions of dollars to prevent this lethal bycatch, but the results have been dismal for the poor vaquita. Unless drastic measures are taken soon, the vaquita will go extinct, the first cetacean to do so since the demise of the baiji, a Yangtze River dolphin that went extinct in the 1980s.
54. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)
One of the largest woodpeckers in the world, the ivory-billed woodpecker may in fact be extinct. The last sighting of the bird was in 2004, but only one male bird was videotaped. The reason for the demise of the species is habitat loss, particularly hardwood swamps and pine forests, much of which has been logged out since the end of the Civil War. Little evidence exists for the bird’s survival since the early 1940s, even though folks have searched throughout the Southeastern US for this pretty woodpecker, not to be confused with the pileated woodpecker, which appears nearly identical. So, if you can find a living specimen of this bird and lead a biologist to it, you may earn a reward of $50,000!
55. Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Also known as the Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine is probably the most endangered species on this list; in fact, it may no longer exist anywhere on earth! Known as the largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times, the thylacine is native to Australia, New Guinea and particularly Tasmania, its last known range. Notably, the last living thylacine died in a zoo in 1936, and a video of it can be seen on YouTube, as well as other videos showing its apparent contemporary existence. At any rate, sightings of the thylacine have been reported well into the 2000s, and a $1.75 million reward has been offered to anyone who can prove the animal’s existence. In 2017, scientists began using camera traps to search for this creature, which may be more of a cryptid than an endangered species in the present day.
We shan't save all we should like to, but we shall save a great deal more than if we had never tried.
— Sir Peter Scott
Certainly this humble list is not comprehensive; hundreds of other animal species are endangered, if not critically so. If anyone is interested in helping save these animals from extinction, they could support, or at least become familiar with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, which has invested over $1 billion on wildlife conservation efforts throughout the world since 1995. People could also donate a buck or two to such informed and dedicated groups.
Interested folks could also vote for candidates who show an interest in wildlife conservation. If a candidate never mentions the importance of such programs, then you shouldn't vote for them, simple as that. Moreover, it seems obvious that some political parties are much more interested in saving species than others. Seek them out and only vote for their candidates.
One may also keep in mind that as these endangered species disappear, it becomes much more likely that people may also go extinct!
Please leave a comment!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What can we do to help these animals?
Answer: One way to help protect these endangered animals is to donate to organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the Nature Conservancy or the Sierra Club.
Question: Do you think all animals might go extinct in the next 100-200 years?
Answer: All animals won't go extinct unless some cataclysmic event, natural of otherwise, wipes them out. But within the next one hundred years many thousands of animals will go extinct unless much is done to preserve their habitat, reduce poaching and greatly reduce pollution.
Question: How many years can animals live?
Answer: Some animals such as mice may only live a year or two, while tortoises may live as much as two hundred years.
Question: Is the giant panda endangered yet?
Answer: A Wikipedia article lists the giant panda as a vulnerable species, which means it needs continuous species management to survive in the wild.
© 2018 Kelley Marks
sanchezzacharia on April 30, 2020:
this was a good list i am deeply troubled with what as humans done to our planet
Kelley Marks on April 03, 2020:
Thanks for stopping by, Peggy. It's always a pleasure for you to drop a comment my way! And please keep a watchful eye on earth's many endangered species.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 02, 2020:
It is sad that so many creatures on this earth are endangered or may already be extinct. We should do all we can to protect the ones that are left and help them thrive. It is interesting that the discovery of the saola, a possible new mammal species, has been discovered. That happens less often in our more populated world.
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on October 03, 2018:
One of the many organizations I support is the WWF. We need to protect wildlife from the notions and the arrogance of man.