A Bleak Future For The Most Endangered Species on Earth

endangered species

Wildlife has declined dramatically over the last four decades, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is raising the alarm again about endangered species.

We now have about 8 million wild animal species, and 2 million are most endangered.

IUCN’s Red List classifies the most endangered species as those facing a desperately dwindling population size based on area of geographic distribution.

The rarest animals in the world and those facing the risk of extinction are classified as Critically Endangered.

Notably, the rarest animals in the world were of least concern about a century ago. However, due to human activities and climate change, the species now line in small groups or individually in the most hidden places on the planet.

The Most Endangered Species in the World

1 – Red Wolf

most endangered species

The red wolf has a size between a coyote and a gray wolf and is native to the South Eastern U.S.

Generally, wolves are predators, known for their shyness and mating for life behavior. None of these has proven practical for the now-endangered red wolf. 

The common threats to this species include hybridization with coyotes, road fatalities, and habitat loss.

Red wolves were declared critically endangered in the early 1970s, and few individuals were introduced into the wild in 1987. Although the program slackened the decline in numbers, this species is now only limited to the eastern parts of Northern Carolina.

The current number is still below 250 individuals, making them some of the rarest animals on earth.

Conservation efforts such as public education, legal protection, and breeding programs are on course to reverse their category under the IUCN Red List.

2 – The Amur Leopard

amur leopard endangered species

The Amur leopard gets its name from the Amur River basin at the border between north-east China and south-east Russia.

IUCN classified this leopard subspecies as the most endangered species in 1996, making it one of the rarest big cats in the world.

Much of Amur’s cat problems started when humans started encroaching on the remote eastern parts of Russia and north-east China. They discovered a big cat with a beautiful thick and spotted coat, which became a big draw for poachers.

The infrastructural development in this part of the world facilitated exploitation, and the number of Amur leopards started plummeting.

Climate change has also impacted the leopards’ population. As global warming increases, the habitats deteriorate, forcing the cold-adapted cat and its prey to explore more exposed and dangerous grounds.

Fortunately, the Amur leopard has proven resilience to threats as conservation efforts have shown to stop the rapid decline through habitat restoration, protection, and antipoaching patrol.  

However, the Amur count is about 300 globally, including those in zoos.

3 – African Forest Elephants

african forest elephants endangered species

Most elephant species worldwide are facing an imminent threat in the wild, but the African forest elephant species is in the blink of extinction.

This species is one of the two members of the African elephant species with a body size about half the size of the African savannah elephant.

Their tusks are straighter and point downwards compared to the outward curving tusks of savanna elephants.

Native to sub-Saharan Africa, these endangered species reside in the deep, dense forests of West and Central Africa.

To date, the African forest elephant species have seen an 86% decline, with the remaining herds occupying a meager 25% of their historic range. 

Besides, the habitat is too scattered for the small herd to explore, and finding sufficient fodder across the now-exploited jungle of Gabon to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a life-threatening endeavor.

Poaching is a big reason this elephant species is among the rarest animals in the world. Even to date, the poaching in this part of the world is widespread, frequent, and extensive, searching for illegal ivory tusks.

Deforestation also affects the vegetation, which is a source of food for the elephants, not to mention the disruption of habitats and breeding grounds. Thanks to conservation efforts, only a few herds remain, but the African forest elephants remain among the most endangered species.

4 – Gharial

Gharial endangered species

Gharial is another rarest animal in the world and is distinguished from a crocodile through its long, narrow snout with a bump at the tip.

This unique crocodilian is native to the Indian subcontinent and gets the name from a local pot called Ghara due to the bumpy snout.

Like most other water creatures, the Gharial has suffered tremendous habitat destruction, with locals poaching it for traditional medicine. As a result, the current number of Gharials in the world is between 100 and 300, making them among the most endangered species we have.

Some of the conservation efforts applied to revive these species include legal protection, captive breeding programs, and habitat restoration.

5 – Kākāpō or Owl-Parrot

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The owl parrot is also called the night parrot, or Kakapo, now numbering less than 250 worldwide.

These large and flightless birds were previously abundant in New Zealand and classified as the loudest, thanks to their earsplitting “boom” calls, especially when searching for a mating partner.

Kakapos are also the heaviest parrot-like bird, with an average adult weighing over 13 pounds (6kg).

However, when humans arrived in New Zealand, the tables turned for these nocturnal birds, becoming extinct in 1994.

The kākāpō’s decline was accelerated through European settlement, which cleared much of the forests. These settlers also came with predators like possums, deer cats, stoats and two more species of rat, depleting the remaining forests of food.

Although predators were later removed and more dedicated breeding programs conducted, the Kakapos are still faced with the risk of extinction. They can only be found in New Zealand’s remote Anchor Island, Little Barrier Island ( Te Hauturu-o-Toi), and Stewart Island (Whenua Hou).

6 – California Condor

california condor endangered species

North America’s largest land bird is also among the most endangered species, although captive breeding efforts have reportedly borne fruit. Nonetheless, the California condor faces extinction with only about 500 individual birds globally.

As people settled in the West, they often shot, poisoned, captured, and disturbed the condors, collected their eggs and reduced their food supply.

With the increased encroachment came deforestation and pollution, which fueled the downward trajectory.

In 1967, the California condor was listed as endangered by the federal government under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, and in 1979, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the California Condor Recovery Program.

In the 1980s, it was discovered that a few dozen condors remained, promoting a campaign to capture them all and conduct captive breeding.

After five years, condors were reintroduced to the wild, and more breeding centers established.

In 2007, California adopted several laws to safeguard the Condor by creating a “non-lead” zone relative to hunting within the range of the California condor.

It’s also illegal to use lead ammunition statewide for the taking of all wildlife, including game mammals, game birds, nongame birds, and nongame mammals. 

Although the captive breeding program has borne fruits, the threats of micro trash ingestion and habitat loss keep the California condor and most endangered species at risk of extinction.