Admit it. You know you’ve hugged or cuddled up with a stuffed animal made after the image of some adorable, exotic species. But if all we are left with are stuffed animals, the world would lose much of its spice and flavor, and those plush toys would just be a sad reminder of what’s been lost. And keeping animals in zoos is no way to keep a species from going extinct.
But if you have done, or plan to do anything to help save endangered species, then you can be proud to know that these are some of the unique, exotic animals that you’ve helped to save:
1 Amur (or Far East) Leopard
Leopards are rarely found in cold environments. But the Amur leopard, related to the African leopard, is a rare subspecies that thrives in the harsh winters of the Russian Far East, and is quite different than its cousin. It’s spots are larger and farther apart, with a thick 3-inch coat in the winter that sheds to a thinner 1-inch coat in the summer. There are less than 40 left.
There are five species of rhinoceros–they are all endangered. Habitat destruction and poaching for their coveted horns are the blame. Only a few live outside national parks and specially created reserves, where the threat of poaching is reduced (but not completely eliminated). If the rhinos disappear, what will all the Egrets and other birds do? Right now, they perch on rhinos and feed on external parasites.
A vaquita is a type of porpoise that lives off of Mexico’s Gulf of California. It gets caught in huge commercial fishing nets, and the damming of the Colorado river altered its habitat. Animal protection agencies have been working with scientists, governments, and others to develop a strategy to help conserve this species. They better hurry. There are an estimated 250 left. About 40-80 get killed in trawl nets and gillnets each year.
4 African Elephant
The wild elephant numbered in the millions only a few decades ago, but now the African elephant is endangered. This is due mostly to poaching for their ivory, but poaching for their meat and habitat destruction also play a role. Several countries forbid the sale of ivory items, but many still allow it. And there is demand for ivory on the underground, black market as well.
5 Tree Kangaroo
These cute little kangaroos are closely related to the long-hopping, long-legged kangaroos we’ve all grown to love. But these ones have longer arms they’ve adapted for climbing and living in trees. Their natural habitat is a small area, mostly in the mountains of New Guinea and the surrounding area, so any small reduction in their habitat makes a big impact on their ability to survive.
6 Giant Panda
One of the rarest bear species, most of the Giant pandas live in a tiny area in southeast China, where their only source of food is bamboo. Although there are less than 2,500 mature giant pandas bears in the wild, and China has created reserves for them that make up nearly half of their remaining habitat, they’re still considered one of the most endangered species on the planet. This is due to the destruction of the other half of their habitat, the slow rate at which bamboo grows, and the persistence of poaching.
7 Polar Bear
Though the polar bear isn’t technically an endangered species (it is on the threatened list,) I put it on this list because glacier ice is melting so fast due to global warming, that most scientists agree they will be on the endangered species list very soon due to the speed at which their habitat is being destroyed. In fact, they might just skip the endangered species list and jump right onto the extinct list if global warming isn’t halted fast. You see, as polar ice melts, polar bears must swim for many more miles to find food, and many are drowning.
Believe it or not, the above species are just a few of the hundreds of species on the endangered species list, such as the Blue Whale, Leatherback Sea Turtle, Mountain Gorilla, and many more. To lose any of them to extinction would be horrible, as each species is unique, and plays an important role in the ecosystem (such as eating animals, insects, or plants that would otherwise become too populated, or themselves being a source of food for another species). But there are some species that are so majestic or fascinating, that it would be a double tragedy if they became extinct
Habitat destruction (such as deforestation and pollution) and centuries of hunting used to be the blame for several animal species’ rapid, unnatural decline. But nowadays, global warming is increasing the threat, and many species (not just the polar bear) are declining at an even faster rate because of it.
But don’t get disheartened, because we can help conserve them, if we put our minds to it. If each person takes some effort, anything is possible!
QUESTIONS: Which of these endangered species is your favorite? Or is there another endangered animal you’re more fond of?
About the author: Seraphina Filson is a writer, professional student, health enthusiast, environmentalist and proud mother who enjoys reading about body contouring and being a fan of Sono Bello on LinkedIn and Sono Bello on Indeed.com.
-images courtesy of National Geographic