12 Incredible And Bizarre Animals That Are Teetering On The Brink Of Extinction

The solitary Amur leopard is one of the world's most endangered cats.DigitalART/Wikimedia Commons

Every day, species around the planet are going extinct. And for each species that goes extinct, many more become and remain endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and climate change.

These threatened animals are included on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species.

Here are 12 species at risk of extinction, including some that you probably didn’t even know existed:

Simone Scully contributed to a previous version of this post. 

The Bornean orangutan

Found only on the island of Borneo, Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) have a broader face and shorter beard than their cousins, Sumatran orangutans. This July, the IUCN changed their status to critically endangered because the population has declined by 60% since 1950, and, according to Scientific American, new projections estimate that their numbers will fall by another 22% by the year 2025.

The main threats for these animals are habitat loss (forests are turned into rubber, oil palm or paper plantations) and illegal hunting. Aggravating the problem, females only reproduce every six to eight years — the longest birth interval of any land mammal — which makes conservation efforts slow.

Pika

Ili pika (Ochontana iliensis) is a small mammal (only 7-8 inches long) that's native to the Tianshan mountain range of the remote Xinjiang region of China. Living on sloping bare rock faces and feeding on grasses at high elevations, this little creature is very rare — there are less than 1,000 left.

The species was only discovered in 1983, but its numbers have declined by almost 70% since then, reports CNN. This is because the mammal's habitat is being affected by climate change. Rising temperatures have forced the pikas to retreat up into the mountain tops. In addition, grazing pressure from livestock and air pollution have likely contributed to their decline.

Giant Otter

A giant otter with a Sailfin Catfish in the Cuiabá River of Brazil.Bernard DUPONT/Flickr

Found only in South America, Giant otters, or Pteronura brasiliensis, are the largest otters in the world, with some as long as 6 feet. 

Historically, giant otters were hunted for their pelts, causing a huge decline in their numbers. While they are no longer hunted today, they remain endangered because many of their aquatic habitats (rivers and lakes) have been degraded and destroyed, causing the fish populations they rely on for food to dwindle.

They are often viewed as nuisances by humans, especially by fishermen. They are also threatened by gold-mining in the region, which leads to mercury poisoning. 

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