Ten Endangered Species in Asia
As the largest, most populated and fastest growing continent on Earth, Asia may be the region of the world where the most animal species face extinction due to conflicts with humans. The rapid development of land for use by humans all over Asia poses a serious threat to many animal species, and many Asian governments do too little too late to protect their own environments.
There are some areas of improved awareness about the risks of overly rapid expansion, and the protection of many iconic species - like Tigers and Giants Pandas - may benefit from focused conservation efforts. But many other animals are also threatened, and they don't always get the attention they need to ensure their continued survival.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international organization whose mission is to encourage and assist countries around the world with maintaining their natural diversity of plant and animal species.
In cooperation with governments, scientists and non-governmental organizations around the world, the IUCN works to maintain the complex biodiversity that maintains the balance of the planetary ecosystem. Every creature has a place in the great machine that is the ecosystem, and the unnatural loss of any species can have significant consequences on the rest of the biosphere.
In their efforts to maintain biodiversity around the globe, the IUCN maintains a "red list" of species and classifies the threat levels for each one, ranging from "Least Concerned" to "Extinct". All of the animals listed on this page are listed either as "Endangered" or "Critically Endangered", the final classification before "Extinct".
Latin Name: Panthera uncia
Location(s): Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
Description: Unlike their larger cousin, the tiger, Snow Leopards are offered little protection in their native habitats. The Snow Leopard's native habitat is closely tied to grazing grounds of its preferred prey, which is also the same land that farmers wish to use for their livestock. This leads to a reduction in prey animals due to competition with livestock, which leads the leopards to turn to the livestock for food. The taking of livestock often leads to retribution killing by farmers.
The Snow Leopard is also intentionally hunted for it fur, as well as for other body parts that are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a substitute for much more rare tiger parts, including bones, claws meat and sexual organs. Poaching of live animals for use in circuses and zoos is also depleting the wild populations.
Over the past decade, much of the Snow Leopard's native range in the Near East has been an area of major military conflict. Damage to the habitat from military action and the demands of displaced peoples for local resources have had a significant impact on the animals' habitat.
National Geographic Photogapher Searches For Snow Leopards
Latin Name: Rhinoceros sondaicus
Location(s): Indonesia and Viet Nam
Extinct in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand
Description: Once the most widespread Asian rhinoceros, the Javan Rhino was hunted to near extinction in the 19th and 20th Centuries and currently exists in just two isolated areas. There are now less than 100 wild Javan Rhinos - about 40 to 60 on the western tip of the island of Java, and another smaller group in Cat Tien National Park in Viet Nam. The Viet Nam population is believed to contain as few as six animals, and no breeding has been observed in recent years. It's possible that all of the animals who currently survive are too old to breed, and they may all be the same sex.
There are currently no Javan Rhinos in captivity, and historically there have only ever been 22 in zoos, the last one having died in and Australian zoo nearly 100 years ago. Failed attempts to captively breed Sumatran Rhinos failed miserably in the late 20th century, and that expensive experiment is unlikely to make a Javan Rhino breeding program viable. The species will most likely never recover and they will soon be extinct.
Rare Video Of Wild Javan Rhinos
Latin Name: Chelonia mydas
Location(s): Tropical and subtropical beaches worldwide
Description: Like all sea turtles, the Green Turtle is a migratory animal that roams the oceans of the world. The female turtles use soft sandy beaches to lay their eggs in more than 80 countries around the world, and the Green Turtle is believed to inhabit the coastal regions of at least 140 countries.
The single greatest threat to all sea turtles, including the Green Turtle, is intentional human harvesting of their eggs from beach-side nesting areas. They are also often caught by fisherman, both accidentally and intentionally, and then killed for their meat. Human beachfront development often encroaches on nesting sites, and the lights from beach-side communities can fatally disorient newly hatched turtle, drawing them away from the ocean.
Turtle egg harvesting has been banned in many countries, but it remains legal in several others despite large reductions in population. The threats to Green Turtles are not reversible and if they aren't ended in the near future the Green Turtle faces certain extinction.
Natinal Geographic Green Turtle "Critter Cam"
Latin Name: Hylobates lar
Location(s): Indonesian Sumatra, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand
Possibly extinct in China
Description: Once plentiful in Southeast Asia, many gibbon species are currently endangered, including the Lar Gibbon. Even though the threat caused by deforestation is on the decline, these animals are still over-hunted for their meat. They are also captured in large numbers for the pet trade, even in protected areas.
Gibbons are unlike other apes in that they act as seed carriers for the fruits they eat. They swallow most of the seeds in their diet, and several fruits that gibbons eat are dependent on the the digestive process to both remove the outer cover of the seeds and to disperse them through the environment. Without the gibbons, many of these fruit species could also be endangered.
Latin Name: Manis pentadactyla
Location(s): Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Hong Kong, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand and Viet Nam
Description: Populations of all Asian Pangolins have suffered extreme losses in the recent past, and these losses are expected to continue over the coming years. They are hunted throughout Asia for export to China, mostly for medicinal purposes but also for their meat and skins. The pangolins were once hunted for subsistence use, but the exploding demand and high price for the animals has spurred illegal commercial hunting. Pangolins can fetch more than $95 U.S. per kilogram in the open market, so even in protected areas they are being relentlessly hunted.
The particular subspecies Manis pentadactyla is especially threatened, since it is the easiest to catch. Unlike other tree-dwelling pangolins, Manis pentadactyla lives in clearly distinguishable underground burrows that are easily spotted and dug up to capture the animals.
Latin Name: Sarcogyps calvus
Location(s): Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam; Vagrant in Pakistan and Singapore
Possibly extinct in Malaysia
Description: Once widely disbursed and abundant through Asia, in recent decades the wild population of Red-Headed Vultures (also known as the Indian Black or Pondicherry Vulture) have experienced a rapid decline in range and population. The current wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 individuals throughout Asia, with just a few hundred in Southeast Asia and the rest mostly in India. Like other carrion eaters, vultures are vital to the ecosystem for disposing of dead animals, and their loss has a profound effect on the biosphere. In India, members of the Parsi faith also relied on the birds for the disposal of human remains, as burying or burning the bodies was seen as polluting the natural elements.
As recently as the 1980s there were millions of vultures all over India, but the population suffered precipitous losses and the few remaining birds are mostly found in sanctuaries. The main cause for the rapid decline in Indian vulture populations seems to be the use of a pharmaceutical called diclofenac, which was used to prevent colic in cattle. The drug turned out to be lethal to vultures who consumed the flesh of dead cows, which are considered sacred in that country are so are left out in the open when the die. After diclofenac was banned, its replacement drug also turned out to be fatal to vultures, and the remaining populations may not be viable for the species' continued existence.
In addition to the deadly drugs used to treat cattle, the overall decline in wild grazing animals in Asia has lead to a drop in the available number of dead animal carcasses for the birds to feed on.
Vulture Populations Decline In India
Latin Name: Panthera tigris
Location(s): Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China , India, Indonesian Sumatra, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand and Viet Nam
Possibly extinct in North Korea
Extinct in Afghanistan, Indonesia (Bali and Jawa), Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Description: Multiple tiger subspecies once freely roamed throughout Asia, from Turkey in the west to the Russian coastline in the east. Over the last 100 years tigers have disappeared from 93% of their historic range. The current wild population of all tigers is endangered, with several subspecies considered critically endangered. The entire worldwide wild population is estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 individuals.
Because they are predators that rely mainly on small mammals like pigs and deer for the bulk of their diets, tigers require a large amount of space to and a strong prey population to survive. Deforestation for farming and commercial development fragment the territory and reduce the number of prey animals, and so directly cause a reduction in the tiger population. Many tigers are killed by farmers to protect their communities as well as their livestock, and the tiger parts from those kills often end up on the black market.
Until very recently it appeared that the tiger would be hunted to extinction for the illegal fur trade and for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, even though most of the supposed medicinal properties in various tiger parts are either psychosomatic or easily treated with less expensive and destructive alternatives. Even though trade in tiger parts has been banned in every part of the world, a strong illegal trade still exists in Asia, especially in China, Viet Nam and Malaysia. Attempts in China to "farm" tigers through captive breeding have been attempted, but the very existence of tiger farms only serves to maintain demand for tiger parts, which in turn fuels illegal trade in other countries.
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Latin Name: Camelus ferus
Location(s): China and Mongolia
Extinct in Kazakhstan
Description: Once prolific across the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and northwest China, the wild Bactrian Camel population had been reduced to less than 1,000 animals by 2004. Droughts in the Gobi have reduced the amount of water resources for the camels, and predation by wild wolves has increased at the same time. Each year, about 20 Bactrian Camels are intentionally killed by miners and hunters when they migrate out of protected areas across the Mongolian border into China.
There are just over a dozen Bactrian Camels in captivity in Mongolia and China - not enough to successfully breed the animals in captivity. If the wild population continues to decline at current rates the species will soon become extinct.
Latin Name: Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
Location(s): Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Islamic Republic of, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine
Extinct in Austria, Croatia, Hungary
Description: The Russian Sturgeon was once prolific throughout the Caspian ans Black Seas, as well as many of their tributaries. Due to over fishing and dam construction in the last 100 years, the wild population has been diminished by 90% of its historic levels. The Russian Sturgeon is now only rarely seen in the Black Sea basin, and spawning grounds have been diminished sharply.
Illegal fishing for caviar is expected to continue to reduce the population over time - the only hope for the survival of the species is from captive breeding in fisheries and man-made stocking of formerly rich habitats.
Latin Name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Description: Once ranging throughout China, the current wild population of Giant Pandas is estimated to be just 1,000 to 2,000 animals. Giant Pandas are completely dependent upon bamboo forests, and in the past they were able to roam from area to area to locate sufficient amounts of food. The combination of deforestation for farming and the breakup of their native range by roads and construction have reduced the Panda population down to smaller numbers.
In the past, poaching was the greatest threat to the Giant Panda, but that threat has been nearly eliminated in recent years. China has imposed stricter protection measures for the Panda's natural habitat, but there is no concrete proof that their population is going to be able to recover in the wild. One such effort is the "Grain-to-Green" campaign, wherein the government pays farmers to replant trees instead of crops in areas where Pandas might be able to thrive. Whether the Pandas will actual resettle these areas is not yet known.
National Geographic Wild Giant Panda Video
Gaudie on October 09, 2017:
So weird but how they could be endangered
But it's still cool so nice
nickupton from Bangkok on July 26, 2011:
Edweirdo (author) from United States on July 26, 2011:
Good catch nickupton!
nickupton from Bangkok on July 25, 2011:
Nice hub, but please, gibbons are not monkeys, they are apes.
Peter Dickinson from South East Asia on March 19, 2011:
DavidLivingston on November 23, 2010:
This is a good post. I enjoyed it a lot! Very interesting. Thank you for posting.
hypnosis4u2 from Massachusetts on November 11, 2010:
This is an outstanding hub in the content and the format you used. Great job Edweirdo.
dutchman1951 from Tennessee, USA on August 25, 2010:
You have some very interesting articles, good reading. Enjoying your writing, keep going. Well done
Jon in Nashville
StarChild11 on August 11, 2010:
I love big cats like the snow leopard and the jaguar, they are just so beautiful, so mysterious.
Annk65 on May 06, 2010:
You did an absolutely fantastic job with this. I have always been interested in protecting endangered species. It believe it is so important.
Hopefully humans will come into balance with Nature...soon.
rose56 on May 04, 2010:
I enjoyed this great hub. Thanks and loved the pics.
Richard Armen on April 30, 2010:
This is a great hub...I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
Edweirdo (author) from United States on April 21, 2010:
Thanks you, KCC, for asking such an important question :D
KRC from Central Texas on April 21, 2010:
What an informative hub! Thank you so much for answering my hub request!