Planet Earth is home to various species along with us (homo sapiens). But not all of them have a bright future ahead of them. Despite the WWF's conservation efforts, many of the species they fight desperately to protect are increasingly at risk of disappearing from the planet permanently, earning themselves an unfortunate spot of the world's endangered species list. We have collected the 10 most exotic and amazing wildlife species which are on the verge of extinction.
Threat: Illegal pet trade
Largely found in Amazon valley Macaws are beautiful, brilliantly colored members of the parrot family.
Many macaws have vibrant plumage. The coloring is suited to life in Central and South American rain forests, with their green canopies and colorful fruits and flowers. The birds boast large, powerful beaks that easily crack nuts and seeds, while their dry, scaly tongues have a bone inside them that makes them an effective tool for tapping into fruits.
Macaws also have gripping toes that they use to latch onto branches and to grab, hold, and examine items. The birds sport graceful tails that are typically very long.
Macaws are intelligent, social birds that often gather in flocks of 10 to 30 individuals. Their loud calls, squawks, and screams echo through the forest canopy. Macaws vocalize to communicate within the flock, mark territory, and identify one another. Some species can even mimic human speech.
There are 17 species of macaws, and several are endangered. These playful birds are popular pets, and many are illegally trapped for that trade. The rain forest homes of many species are also disappearing at an alarming rate.
These beautiful birds are highly sought after in the illegal pet trade, however, the WWF suggests captive breeding as an alternative to illegal capture and a way to increase the population.
Threat: Introduced species
These tortoises are also called galápagos because they are found mainly on Galapagos Islands. Spanish sailors who discovered the palcein 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is galápago.
Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging over 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152.
They are also the world's largest tortoises, with some specimens exceeding 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and reaching 550 pounds (250 kilograms).
There are now only 11 types of giant tortoises left in the Galápagos, down from 15 when Darwin arrived.They almost went into extinction because people captured them for food, and because they were attached by other animals people brought to the island. Hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and merchantmen during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, more than 100,000 tortoises are estimated to have been killed off. Nonnative species such as feral pigs, dogs, cats, rats, goats, and cattle are a continuing threat to their food supply and eggs. Today, only about 15,000 remain.
The tortoises are now listed as endangered and have been strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government since 1970. Captive breeding efforts by the Charles Darwin Research Station are also having positive effects.
Galápagos tortoises lead an uncomplicated life, grazing on grass, leaves, and cactus, basking in the sun, and napping nearly 16 hours per day. A slow metabolism and large internal stores of water mean they can survive up to a year without eating or drinking.
3. Monarch Butterfly
Threat: Climate change
They emerge as beautifully colored, black-orange-and-white adults from the pupa. Monarch butterflies are known for the incredible mass migration that brings millions of them to California and Mexico each winter. North American monarchs are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey—up to 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers). The insects must begin this journey each fall ahead of cold weather, which will kill them if they tarry too long.
Only monarchs born in late summer or early fall make the migration, and they make only one round trip. By the time next year's winter migration begins, several summer generations will have lived and died and it will be last year's migrators' great grandchildren that make the trip. Yet somehow these new generations know the way, and follow the same routes their ancestors took—sometimes even returning to the same tree.
The Monarch Butterfly population,is suffering the effects of man-made events as well as the consequences of the “global warming” phenomenon. Many scientists are concerned about the eastern population of monarchs, which summer east of the Rocky Mountains. This group is occurring in ever smaller numbers, and its survival may be threatened by a series of natural disasters in the Mexican wintering grounds, as well as by reduced acreage of milkweed plants in their summer home.
Scientists assert that the global climate change may cause the Monarch’s over-wintering sites in Mexico to become wetter, and the spring and summer breeding areas of the United States west coast and mid-western agricultural belt to become warmer. As temperatures become too warm for this species, their summer migrations may take them even further northward. Their winter home in the mountains of central Mexico is greatly threatened today by tremendous logging operations of the Fir tree forests. This deforestation and increased agricultural development in Mexico is causing great concern, and adding to the outcry that the Monarch Butterfly is becoming an endangered species.
4. Mountain Gorillas:
Threat: Habitat loss
There are roughly 700 mountain gorillas remaining on Earth, and nearly half live in the forests of the Virunga mountains in central Africa. These gorillas live on the green, volcanic slopes of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—areas that have seen much human violence from which the gorillas have not escaped unscathed.
Mountain gorillas have longer hair and shorter arms than their lowland cousins. They also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas. Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures. Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.
Many conservation initiatives are meant to aid mountain gorillas, and it is believed that their numbers may be steady or slowly increasing. Still they continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching. Detrimental human activities such as poaching, civil war, and habitat destruction, the mountain gorilla has become the most endangered type of gorilla.
Threat: Habitat loss.
The giant panda has an insatiable appetite for bamboo. A typical animal eats half the day—a full 12 out of every 24 hours—and relieves itself dozens of times a day. It takes 28 pounds (12.5 kilograms) of bamboo to satisfy a giant panda's daily dietary needs.
Wild pandas live only in remote, mountainous regions in central China. These high bamboo forests are cool and wet—just as pandas like it. They may climb as high as 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) to feed on higher slopes in the summer season.
Pandas are often seen eating in a relaxed sitting posture, with their hind legs stretched out before them. They may appear sedentary, but they are skilled tree-climbers and efficient swimmers.
China’s Yangtze Basin region, which holds the panda’s primary habitat, is the geographic and economic heart of this booming country. Roads and railroads are increasingly fragmenting the forest, which isolates panda populations and prevents mating. Forest destruction also reduces pandas’ access to the bamboo they need to survive. The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, but only around 61% of the country’s panda population is protected by these reserves.
There are only about 1,000 giant pandas left in the wild. Perhaps 100 pandas live in zoos, where they are always among the most popular attractions. Much of what we know about pandas comes from study of these zoo animals, because their wild cousins are so rare and elusive.
6. Polar Bear
Threat: Climate change
Polar bears live in one of the planet's coldest environments and depend on a thick coat of insulated fur, which covers a warming layer of fat. They roam the Arctic ice sheets and swim in that region's coastal waters. They are very strong swimmers. Some polar bears have been seen swimming hundreds of miles from land—though they probably cover most of that distance by floating on sheets of ice.
These powerful predators typically prey on seals. They also stalk ice edges and breathing holes. If the opportunity presents itself, polar bears will also consume carcasses, such as those of dead whales. These Arctic giants are the masters of their environment and have no natural enemies.
Polar bears live in a very specific habitat. They need the cold, snow and ice of the polar regions. Polar bears have very few natural threats in the polar region. They are threatened as a direct effect on how we as humans treat the earth and the environment.The "Greenhouse Effect" warms the earth, and therefore, melts the precious snow and ice that the polar bears need for survival.
7. South African Rhinos:
Threat: Poaching and illegal wildlife trade:
Both black and white rhinoceroses are actually gray. Females reproduce only every two and a half to five years. Their single calf does not live on its own until it is about three years old.
They feed at night and during the gloaming hours of dawn and dusk. Under the hot African sun, they take cover by lying in the shade. Black rhinos boast two horns, the foremost more prominent than the other. Rhino horns grow as much as three inches (eight centimeters) a year, and have been known to grow up to five feet (one and a half meters) long. Females use their horns to protect their young, while males use them to battle attackers.
The prominent horn for which rhinos are so well known has also been their downfall. Many animals have been killed for the hard, hairlike growth, which is revered for medicinal uses in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The horn is also valued in North Africa and the Middle East as an ornamental dagger handle.
The black rhino is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by commercial demand. Recently, there has a been an increase in the number of rhinos being poached due to the false belief that the rhino horn provides the medical benefit of an aphrodisiac. Last year, a record number of 1004 rhinos were killed in South Africa.
Threat: Destructive fishing methods
Coral reefs shelter low-lying islands from storm waves and flooding and produce beach sand and some of the best surf in the world. These benefits are eroding, however,as reefs are assaulted by pollution, silt, warming seas, cruise ships, and divers’ prying fingers and heavy feet. An estimated 10 to 27 percent of coral has perished worldwide, and 40 percent may be gone by 2010, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. When it comes to human health, coral, like canaries in coal mines, may be providing early warnings to the rest of us.
Sewage is harming coral worldwide. While investigating the death of 38 percent of Florida Keys coral reefs over the last five years.
Threat: Poaching and illegal wildlife trade
Tigers are the largest members of the cat family and are renowned for their power and strength.There were eight tiger subspecies at one time, but three became extinct during the 20th century. Over the last 100 years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced tiger populations from hundreds of thousands of animals to perhaps fewer than 2,500. Tigers are hunted as trophies, and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. All five remaining tiger subspecies are endangered, and many protection programs are in place.
Bengal tigers live in India and are sometimes called Indian tigers.Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful nocturnal hunters that travel many miles to find buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals.
In a little over a century, we have lost nearly 97% of the wild tigers. Nearly every part of the tiger is sought after for traditional medicine and folk remedies. In some Asian cultures, the tiger is considered a power symbol, so the animal also suffers from the illegal pet trade.
Threat: Climate change
These rare, beautiful gray leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia. They are insulated by thick hair, and their wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes. Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous leapers, able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters). They use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.
Snow leopards prey upon the blue sheep (bharal) of Tibet and the Himalaya, as well as the mountain ibex found over most of the rest of their range.
As these numbers indicate, snow leopards sometimes have a taste for domestic animals, which has led to killings of the big cats by herders.
These endangered cats appear to be in dramatic decline because of such killings, and due to poaching driven by illegal trades in pelts and in body parts used for traditional Chinese medicine. Due to the rapid melting of the Himalayas, the elusive snow leopard is at risk of losing a large percentage of their habitat and also the decline of the cats' large mammal prey are also contributing factors.