Jess Owen 20th April 2018
Earlier this year, the world was informed that the last male white northern rhino had died. Sudan passed away at the age of 45 at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia County and now the species has been classed as “functionally extinct” as only females remain.
Meanwhile, a study from this week found that cows could be the largest mammals alive in a few centuries’ time.
There are another 5,583 species which are classed as critically endangered, meaning they are also facing an extremely high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has studied more than 76,000 species globally.
Below are just a few examples of some of the most vulnerable species that the world may lose next.
Panthera tigris amoyensis (South China tiger)
In 1996, there were around 30-80 individual south China tigers left in the wild, however the species is now extinct except for those that are still living in captivity. As their name suggests, they were found across the Southeast China-Hainan Moist Forest and were mainly hunted as a pest.
Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (Sumatran rhino)
The sumatran rhino is the smallest of the rhino family and was declared extinct in the wild in 2015. The species used to be found across Sumatra and Kalimantan but they can still be seen living in captivity.
Phocoena sinus (Vaquita)
The vaquita is a species of porpoise, which can be found in the Gulf of California. This porpoise is the world’s most rare marine mammal and it is thought there are only about 30 individuals still living in the wild.
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis (Saola)
Also known as the “Asian unicorn”, the saola is a small mammal and can be found in the Annamite mountains of Vietnam and Laos. It is thought that there are probably no more than 50 individuals left in the wild.
“The species will certainly go extinct in the next few years before the population can grow.
“Poaching is so intense in Laos and Vietnam and the last few saola are being snared out at an alarming rate,” says Andrew Tilker, a doctoral student at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Panthera pardus orientalis (Amur leopard)
The amur leopard can be found in the far east of Russia and has adapted to the temperate, broadleaf and mixed forests of the region. The species is hunted largely for its fur coat, and the accessibility of its habitat allows for poachers to easily hunt them down and hunt the leopard’s prey also. It is thought that there are approximately only 60 individuals remaining in the wild.
Rhinoceros sondaicus (Javan rhino)
The javan rhino is one of the most endangered rhinos of all five species and the only population can be found living in the Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
“Our best estimate of the population comes from a study in 2013 whereby 62 adults and sub-adults were identified.
“Work is still underway for estimating the population size for subsequent years,” says Dr Brian Gerber, assistant professor for the Department of Natural Resources Science at the University of Rhode Island.
Gorilla gorilla diehli (Cross river gorilla)
The cross river gorilla is mainly found in the Congo basin in Africa, and it is thought that 200-300 animals remain in the wild, although some are living in zoos and wildlife centres.
“The population could well grow in Cameroon as well as in Central Africa if hunting and agricultural expansion is reduced in addition to getting local communities to participate in conservation.
“At the moment, very little is being done to help the cross river gorilla and the efforts of all stakeholders, including politicians, conservationists and funders, needs to be stepped up,” says Nkwatoh Athanasius Fuashi, head of the department of environmental science at the University of Buea in Cameroon.
Panthera tigris jacksoni (Malayan tiger)
There are thought to be around 250-340 malayan tigers left in the wild. They can be found across the tropical moist broadleaf forests of the Malayan Peninsula and the southern tip of Thailand. Logging operations and road developments in the area have resulted in habitat loss, increasing the threat to these big cats.
Gorilla beringei beringei (Mountain gorilla)
Like the cross river gorilla, the mountain gorilla is also native to the Congo basin in Africa and can be found in forested and mountainous areas. There are approximately 880 individuals living in the wild, yet there may be hope for this species as there have recently been strong conservational efforts to help protect them.
Neophocoena asiaeorientalis (Yangtze finless porpoise)
The yangtze finless porpoise, as the name suggests, can be found in the Yangtze river in Asia. There are supposedly fewer than 1000 individuals left in the wild and their main threat is from ship movements, overfishing and pollution.
These eleven animals are only a tiny example of the much larger number of species which are on the brink of extinction, and every year an increasing number of species are being considered more endangered than once thought.
“Although a lot is being done to help species facing extinction by motivational and inspirational people, there is always so much more that could be done!” says Dr Gerber.
An inspirational amount of work and time is being put in by researchers, conservationists and wildlife organisations to help these species recover to healthy populations, yet hurdles such as poaching, human development and climate change can outweigh the important support that these species require.
Jess Owen 20th April 2018