A List of the World's Top 10 Most Endangered Animals & Species
A Bit of Background on Endangered Species and Animals
In a survey (note: this link goes to an independent website's archived copy; the museum's original link no longer exists) of biologists conducted by New York's American Museum of Natural History, 70% of the biologists surveyed believe that 20% of all living animal populations could become extinct by 2028. Science has only identified about 2 million species, but it is estimated that this is only a small fraction of the number that have yet to be discovered or that have already gone extinct. Over the past 400 years, 89 mammalian species have gone extinct, and another 169 are threatened with extinction.
Because of human destruction of their habitats, tropical rainforest species are at the highest risk, as are top-of-the-food-chain carnivores, other species whose geographical range is already small, and marine coral reef species.
While the fossil record shows that the loss of biodiversity due to extinctions is a phenomenon that can be recovered from, the time for recovery in the past has been on the order of millions of years. If we humans don't take action to maintain our planet's biodiversity, we might be the ones facing extinction if the future.
Here are 10 of the world's most endangered species. There are many more species that are endangered or threatened with becoming endangered, but most of these are considered to be at extreme risk of extinction.
Ten of the Most Endangered Species & Animals
10. Siberian Tigers
9. Bonobo Apes
8. Giant Pandas
7. Mountain Gorillas
6. Black Rhinos
5. Hawksbill Turtles
4. Sumatran Orangutans
3. Fin Whales
2. Asian Elephants
1. Amur Leopard
10. The Siberian Tiger
Siberian Tiger Facts
- Scientific name: Panthera tigris altaica
- Location: Russian Far East, possibly small border areas of China and North Korea.
- Population: 450
Tigers once ranged all over Asia, but today their numbers are dangerously low, and more tigers exist in American zoos than in the wild in Asia. The Siberian, or Amur, tiger is the sub-species closest to extinction in the wild. These are the largest sized sub-species of tiger, as well as the largest of the world's big cats.
The major threats facing these big cats are poaching and loss of habitat due to human encroachment. Much of the poaching is done to supply tiger parts for traditional Chinese medicine, even though equivalent modern alternatives are available and have been proven to be more effective.
9. The Bonobo Ape
Bonobo Ape Facts
- Scientific name: Pan paniscus
- Location: Central Africa
- Population: 5,000 to 60,000
Bonobos are members of the great ape family and are found only in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are closely related to the more familiar chimpanzee, with longer legs, shorter arms, and smaller trunk. Like chimpanzees, bonobos are remarkably social, but bonobos tend to be more peaceful than chimps.
The greatest threat facing bonobos, aside from the limited range of their habitat, is from poachers who kill the apes and sell them for bush meat.
8. The Giant Panda
Giant Panda Facts
- Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca
- Location: South-central China
- Population: 1,864 as of 2014
One of the most familiar endangered species in the world, the giant panda spends half its day eating, and bamboo makes up 99% of their diet. While poaching is no longer considered a threat, the main threat to the giant panda is loss of habitat and fragmentation of their habitat due to agriculture.
7. The Mountain Gorilla
Mountain Gorilla Facts
- Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei
- Location: Central Africa
- Population: 700
The sub-species of gorilla known as the mountain gorilla exists in the wild in two small regions: the Virunga Volcanoes region at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
These animals are threatened by hunting and human encroachment for agriculture and timber. While eco-tourism may help to protect these small populations, there is a risk of spreading human illnesses to the animals.
6. The Black Rhino
Black Rhino Facts
- Scientific name: Diceros bicornis
- Location: Southwest Africa
- Population: 4,000
The black rhino was once the most numerous rhino species, ranging throughout southwestern Africa. Due to excessive hunting, the population has been reduced by over 90% in just the last 70 years.
The greatest threat to the black rhino is poaching. They are hunted simply for their for horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as for trophies and ornamental use.
Increased law enforcement and conservation programs are helping increase their numbers, but they are still considered critically endangered.
5. The Hawksbill Turtle
Hawksbill Turtle Facts
- Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
- Location: Throughout the tropics and subtropics
- Population: 8,000 nesting females
With a range that covers all the world's tropical and sub-tropical seas, the hawksbill turtle population has decreased by 80% over the last three generations.
The major threat facing the hawksbill turtle is the tortoiseshell trade. In the last 100 years, millions have been killed for their shells. Habitat destruction by human beach front development, excessive collection of their eggs, and poaching for meat are other major threats to their survival.
4. The Sumatran Orangutan
Sumatran Orangutan Facts
- Scientific name: Pongo abelii
- Location: Northern Sumatra
- Population: 7,300
Sumatran orangutans exist only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over the last 75 years, their population has been diminished by 80% due to human encroachment of their forest habitat, especially for timber and agriculture.
Although their numbers were stabilizing for several years, logging increased as people cut down trees to rebuild damaged infrastructure following the 2004 tsunami.
3. The Fin Whale
Fin Whale Facts
- Scientific name: Balaenoptera physalus
- Location: All the world's oceans
- Population: 30,000
In the 20th century, over 750,000 fin whales were killed by commercial whalers. This second largest living animal (after the blue whale) was hunted almost to extinction until the International Whaling Commission's ban on killing them in 1976. Except for a small number of allowed kills for Norway, Japan, and Iceland, the hunting of this whale has been banned.
2. The Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant Facts
- Scientific name: Elephas maximus
- Location: India and Southeast Asia
- Population: 25,000 to 32,000
The main threat to Asian elephants is conflict with humans. Since elephants are grazing animals, they need large tracts of land to feed and survive. Because of this, elephants and people cannot co-exist in regions where most of the land is used for agriculture.
The habitat of the Asian elephant lies within Asia, the area of the world with the greatest human population growth, so their habitat is under serious threat from human encroachment.
1. The Amur Leopard
Amur Leopard Facts
- Scientific name: Panthera pardus orientalis
- Location: Eastern Russia
- Population: Less than 40
Once ranging from all over Eastern Asia, the Amur leopard, or Far Eastern Leopard, is now extinct in China and the Korean Peninsula.
Poaching and human encroachment into the habitat of the Amur leopard have led to their drastic reduction in numbers. With such a small population, genetic anomalies due to inbreeding pose a further threat to the population.