This article is about the animals which are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the near future if their populations keep on declining at the same rate as now. The very existence of these animals is threatened by many factors most of which involve humans directly or indirectly. All the species of animals presented in this list have been given a conservation status of Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The Critically Endangered status is just one level below the ‘Extinct in Wild’ and is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List. This indicates how dangerously threatened these animals are. The following is a list of top 10 critically endangered animals in the world.
10. Leatherback Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea
Location: Atlantic, eastern Pacific and western Pacific Oceans.
Estimated Population: 35,860 nesting females
Leatherback sea turtle is the most wide ranging sea turtle. It got its name due to its unique carapace which is flexible and rubbery in texture unlike the other sea turtles whose shells are made of hard bony plates. It is the largest of all living turtles and also the largest extant sea turtle. It is sometimes called the lute turtle. Leatherback turtles can be generally found in the pelagic zone. An amazing fact is that this large and active animal can survive on a diet of jellyfish which is mostly composed of water and is a poor source of nutrients. The main threats to these turtles include entanglement in fishing gear, egg harvesting, ship strikes, incidental take in marine fisheries and marine pollution. Balloons, plastic and other marine debris floating in the water are mistaken for jellyfishes and consumed by these turtles causing their death.
9. Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Eretmochelys imbricata
Location: Tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.
Estimated Population: 22,900 nesting females
In spite of widespread distribution, this turtle is threatened with extinction. Hawksbill sea turtles are among the smaller sea turtles. Their eggs are still consumed around the world, and they are killed for their flesh despite the international conservation status they have been given. They have become the target for commercial hunting due to their stunning shell which is often referred to as ‘tortoise shell’ and still used in some countries to make head ornaments, jewelry and other decorative items.
8. Sumatran Elephant
Scientific Name: Elephas maximus sumatranus
Location: Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Estimated Population: 2400-2800 in wild
The Sumatran elephant is a subspecies of the Asian elephant and smallest of all the subspecies. The population declined by at least 80% over the past 75 years. The subspecies is conspicuously threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation, poaching for their ivory tusks, degradation and fragmentation. Within the last 25 years, 69% of their potential habitat has been lost to deforestation for palm oil plantations. As the forest area decreased, elephants often come into contact with human settlements generating many conflicts with humans resulting in many elephant deaths. Most of the elephant deaths are due to human persecution, 30% of which is through poisoning due to fear of the animal.
7. Mountain Gorilla
Scientific Name: Gorilla beringei beringei
Location: Virunga Mountains, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.
Estimated Population: 880 individuals
The mountain gorilla is a large and strong ape inhabiting the Africa’s volcanic slopes. It is one of the two subspecies of eastern gorilla. These gorillas are peaceful, gentle and social. The mountain gorilla endured uncontrolled hunting, war and instability, disease, charcoal production which is destroying gorilla habitat, forest habitat loss due to clearing of land for agriculture and capture for illegal pet trade. All these factors led to their dramatic decline in numbers. Due to extensive conservation efforts in the recent years the populations have slightly increased in numbers, from 620 individuals in 1989 to around 880 individuals today.
6. Sumatran Tiger
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris sumatrae
Location: Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Estimated Population: Less than 400 individuals
The Sumatran tiger is a rare subspecies found exclusively on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is the last stronghold for tigers in Indonesia. These tigers are the smallest surviving tiger subspecies. They are losing their habitat due to logging, clearing for agriculture, expansion of oil palm plantations, and settlement. This habitat destruction is also reducing their prey, forcing the tigers to enter the human settlements in search of food, where they come into conflict with people. Human-tiger conflict is a more serious issue in Sumatra than other parts of tiger’s global range. The Sumatran tiger is also threatened by poaching for illegal trade. Conservation measures include the prohibition of hunting, protecting tiger habitat and monitoring the tigers.
5. White-headed Langur
Scientific Name: Trachipythecus poliocephalus
Location: Cat Ba Island, Vietnam, and Guanxi, China.
Estimated Population: 60-70 individuals
White-headed langurs are among the rarest primates in the world and are near extinction. They are also known as Cat Ba Langurs or Golden-headed langurs. These langurs live high up in caves, hills and trees and live in groups and take turns scavenging and babysitting. They have excellent tree-climbing skills. Hunting, habitat loss and illegal poaching are the main threats endangering their existence. They are among the World’s 25 most endangered primates. Their habitat is now protected by law,and there are two sanctuaries for them.
4. Cross River Gorilla
Scientific Name: Gorilla gorilla diehli
Location: Border between Nigeria and Cameroon, in both tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.
Estimated Population: 250-300 in wild, 115 protected in Nigeria’s Cross River National Park
The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of western lowland gorillas and thought to have diverged from them about 17,800 years ago. It is considered one of the World’s 25 most endangered primates. Two parks, Takamanda National Park in Cameroon and Cross River National Park in Nigeria, have been established for the protection of the Cross River gorillas. Their numbers declined due to habitat loss, degradation, hunting for bushmeat, farming activity and construction of roads throughout their habitats.
Scientific Name: Phocoena sinus
Location: Northern part of Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez.
Estimated Population: Fewer than 200 individuals
The other names of Vaquita include cochito, desert porpoise and gulf porpoise. It is the most endangered cetacean in the world. It is also the smallest living cetacean. Main threats to Vaquita include directed fishing, reduction of food supply due to fishing and accidental entangling in gill nets set for fish, a problem known as bycatch. Vaquitas can only be saved by eliminating the bycatch. Other major threats are pesticide pollution, natural predators, habitat loss and degradation. Many protective measures are being taken to help this species to recover.
2. Javan Rhinoceros
Scientific Name: Rhinoceros sondaicus
Location: Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java.
Estimated Population: Only about 40 exist in the world in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park
The Javan rhinoceros is also known as lesser one-horned rhinoceros. Only one population of this species remains making them extremely vulnerable to extinction due to natural disasters, disease, genetic drift, loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding depression and poaching. The main reason for the extinction of the Vietnamese subspecies is poaching which still remains a threat to the remaining individuals. The Javan rhinos are primarily killed for their horns which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine. These rhinos are also threatened by habitat loss caused by commercial logging and forest conversion for agriculture.
1. Amur Leopard
Scientific Name: Panthera pardus orientalis
Location: Primorye region of southeastern Russian and Jilin Province of northeast China.
Estimated Population: 19-26 extant in wild
The Amur leopard is a rarity among the leopard species. The other names of this leopard include Far Eastern Leopard, Korean Leopard, and Manchurian Leopard. The average life span is 17 years in the zoo. This leopard is mainly threatened by poaching, encroaching civilization, forest degradation, human induced fires, hunting of its prey, climate change and inbreeding. As it is severely endangered many conservation actions are being taken to save it from extinction.