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  • Writer's pictureNisshanthan Dhanapalan

10 endangered species that require your attention

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

We explore 10 animals that are on the brink of extinction and who do you reach out to help.

A Malayan Tiger (Photo by Razlisyam Razali from Pixabay)

Today is World Wildlife Day. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), one million animals and plant species are threatened with extinction and its projected that many of these extinctions may happen within decades.

Our wildlife plays a huge role in the global ecosystem in which we, as humans, are part of. Human-driven activities have heavily impacted the lives and survival of many wild animals. Some of the threats wildlife across the globe are currently facing include habitat loss, poaching, pollution and climate change.

However, it is not too late. There is still an opportunity to turn back the clock to make a positive difference and aid committed individuals and organisations that are fighting to keep them alive.

Here are 10 wildlife species that are fighting to stay alive and how you can reach out to relevant conservation organisations.

1. Bornean Orang Utan (Pongo pygmaeus)

Bornean Orang Utan (Photo by Stuart Jansen on Unsplash)

The proud symbol of Borneo has seen its population decline by more than 50% over the last 60 years. These intelligent and affectionate primates face a major threat to their survival due to unsustainable deforestation, forest fires and fragmentation that has resulted in their habitat reducing to just 55% of what it used to be in past 20 years.

They play a critical role in dispersal of seeds (from the fruits and forest produce that they consume) with 500 plant species have been recorded in their diet. The Bornean Orang Utan have an extremely low reproductive rate because of their commitment to raise a single offspring to maturity, and they take a long time to reach sexual maturity.

To learn more about the Bornean Orang Utans and to contribute to their conservation, visit the Orangutan Foundation.

2. Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

Sumatran Rhino (Photo By E. Ellis, 2012; wikicommons)

Last November, we received the devastating news that the last Sumatran Rhino died at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia – thus declaring that the species extinct in Malaysia.

These large, solitary creatures could live up to 40 years old but are constantly threatened by habitat loss and poachers for their horn which is a commodity in traditional medicine in the region. The last strong hold of the species lies in the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra with just 50 individuals recorded.

To learn more about the Sumatran Rhinos and to contribute to their conservation, visit the International Rhino Foundation.

3. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)

Hawksbill Turtle (Photo by Kris Mikael Krister on Unsplash)

Found throughout the warm equatorial waters of the planet, the Hawksbill Turtles are some of the most magnificent creatures to roam the seas. They are the living descendants of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and traveled our seas for the last 100 million years.

They play an important role in maintaining the health of our global coral reefs. They are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding sites, excessive egg collection, pollution, coastal development and accidental captures during fishing. Their shell is also a prized commodity in the illegal wildlife trade.

To learn more about the Hawksbill and other turtles, and to contribute to their conservation, visit SEE Turtles.

4. Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)

Saola (Photo by Silviculture 2007; wikicommons)

The Saola (pronounced sow-la) was only discovered 28 years ago during a joint wildlife survey conducted by the Ministry of Forestry Vietnam and the World Wild Life Organisation (WWF) in Vietnam. This mysterious herbivore is closely related to cattle, goats and antelopes, and dwells in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos. Due to its recent discovery, it is considered one of the world’s rarest large mammal and the actual size of the remaining population is unknown.

The Saola is majorly threatened by habitat loss to make way for agriculture, plantations and infrastructure, as well as hunting to protect crops, or for the traditional medicine and exotic meat trade in the region.

To learn more about the Saolas and to contribute to conservation, visit the Saola Working Group.

5. Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)

Eastern lowland gorilla (Photo by Joe McKenna 2012; wikicommons)

This gorilla species is attributed to be the largest of the four gorilla subspecies and is distinguished by their stocky body, large hands and short muzzle. These great apes make the lowland tropical rainforest of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo their home. Despite reaching up to 440 pounds in weight, these creatures consume mainly fruit and other herbaceous materials.

Scientists estimate that the population of these gorillas have declined by more than 50% since the 1990s when their population numbered at 17,000. They face an immense threat of habitat loss due to farming and lives stock and illegal mining throughout their habitat range for tin, gold, diamonds and coltan – and alloy used in cell phones. They are also vulnerable to poaching, even in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to the largest population of protected eastern lowland gorillas.

To learn more about the Eastern Lowland Gorillas and to contribute to their conservation, visit The Gorilla Organization.

6. Borneo Pygmy Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)

Borneo Pygmy Elephant (Photo by Bernard Dupont 2012; wikicommons)

The smallest of all Asian elephant subspecies, the Borneo Pygmy Elephants are known for their baby-face with over-sized ears, plump bellies and tails so long that they sometimes drag on the ground when they walk. They are also known to be more gentle-natured than their other Asian elephant counterparts. There are approximately 1,500 individuals currently roaming the jungles of Borneo.

The primary threat to these gentle giants is habitat loss of continuous forests which are crucial for mammal of their size to find sufficient food. Their jungles are cut down to make way for logging activities, agriculture and palm oil plantations. In 2019, we witnessed a trend in deaths of pygmy elephants in Sabah, Malaysia where the elephants were found to be either shot or poisoned to death as a result of increasing incidences of animal-human conflict. Some of these cases reported that the tusks were been removed from the dead elephants – which is a major commodity in the illegal wildlife trade, used for traditional medicine and decorations.

To learn more about the Borneo Pygmy Elephants and to contribute to their conservation, visit the World Wildlife Foundation - Borneo Pygmy Elephants

7. Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis ssp. Asiaeorientalis)

Yangtze finless porpoise, (Photo by Huangdan2060, 2011; wikicommons)

Being one of the freshwater species of porpoise and dolphins in the world, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise called the longest river in Asia – the Yangtze River – its home. The porpoise used to share its habitat with its close cousin, the Baiji dolphin which was declared functionally extinct in 2006. It is estimated that there are only 1000 to 1800 individuals in the wild.

Over fishing is one of the main factors that has contributed to its decline, as these porpoises require an abundant food supply for survival. Furthermore, pollution and ship movement in the Yangtze River continue to pose a threat to their survival.

To learn more about the Yangtze Finless Porpoises and to contribute to their conservation, visit the Porpoise Conservation Society.

8. Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica)

Pangolin (Photo by Shukran888 2019, wikicommons)

The pangolin is a solitary, primarily nocturnal animal that is easily identified by their full armour of scales used to protect itself. When touched or grabbed, pangolins will curl up into a ball, exposing to scales to potential threats. Pangolins are anteaters and can only be found in two continents; Africa (which has five species) and in Asia (which has four species). The Sunda pangolin is indigenous to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia (including Borneo), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in Asia and increasingly in Africa. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), an estimated 116,990 – 233,980 pangolins were killed based on reported seizures between 2011 and 2013. Experts believe that seizures represent as little as 10 percent of the actual volume of pangolins in the illegal wildlife trade. Pangolins are hunted for the exotic meat industry and its scales are used to allegedly cure ailments from asthma to rheumatism and arthritis.

To learn more about the Sunda and other Pangolins, and to contribute to their conservation, visit Save Pangolins.

9. Galápagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus)

Galápagos Penguin (Photo by Derek Keats 2011, wikicommons)

The Galápagos penguin is the second smallest species of penguin in the world. The entire population can only be found on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. They are the only penguin species found north of the equator with fewer than 2000 individuals in its isolated population – naming it as one of the rarest species of penguins.

These penguins are severely affected by pollution, climate change and bycatch as a result of getting caught in fishing nets by mistake. The introduction of cats, dogs and rats in Isabela Island (one of the Islands in Galápagos) has increased attacks on these penguins, their offspring and eggs from their existing predators.

To learn more about the Galápagos Penguins, and to contribute to their conservation, visit Galapagos Conservancy.

10. Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)

Malayan Tiger (Photo by Tu7uh 2011, wikicommons)

The Malayan tiger is a majestic creature that has since drawn inspiration in Malay folklore and even earning its place in the Malaysian coat of arms and several other symbols within the country. The population inhibits the southern and central regions of peninsula Malaysia. Being at the top of the food chain in the wild, these tigers play a critical role in the ecosystem in maintaining the rich biodiversity of its habitat.

In the 1950’s it was estimated that there were as many as 3,000 tigers in the wild and since, dwindled to less than 220 individuals with experts fearing that the species may go extinct in the next two to three years. Among the threats Malayan tigers face include habitat loss which also contributes to loss of prey, human-wild life conflict and most devastatingly, the illegal wildlife trade for tiger body parts in the black market.

To learn more about the Malayan Tigers, and to contribute to their conservation, visit MYCAT.

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