Earth is home to a rich diversity of animal species, each uniquely adapted to their habitats and contributing to the local biodiversity. Amidst this abundance of animals, some are rarer than others and are considered critically endangered. In this article, we’ll explore 18 of the rarest animal breeds, shedding light on population decline and conservation efforts.
According to the WWF, the amur leopard has been critically endangered since the 1990s and is one of the rarest big cats across the globe. It is believed that fewer than 100 of these leopards exist in the wild, identified by their lengthy legs, iconic spotted fur, and adaptability to both hot and cold climates. There have been some efforts to preserve amur leopards’ habitats and increase the population via breeding programs.
The vaquita is labeled the world’s most endangered marine mammal. On the brink of extinction, it is known for its dark rings circling the eyes and mouth. Only an estimated ten specimens are left in the Gulf of California, with biodiversity charities working urgently to address the primary threats to the vaquita’s extinction, such as illegal gillnet fishing and habitat destruction.
The Javan rhino can only be found in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, highlighting the severity of its population crisis. Only around 60 members of the species remain due to challenges like poaching, habitat loss, and the animal’s low genetic diversity.
The saola was only recently discovered in the early 1990s in Laos and Vietnam, making this species one of the globe’s most elusive big mammals. While the precise population of the saola is currently unknown, these animals can be detected by their long, straight horns and unique white facial markings. Save the Saola claims that hunting via commercial poaching primarily threatens the saola’s existence.
There has been a critical decline in the Sumatran elephant population due to factors including human conflict and habitat loss. This species contributes significantly to the environment, feeding on various plants and depositing seeds throughout it, making it an essential contributor to the maintenance of forest ecosystems. There have been some conservation strategies to help the Sumatran elephant survive, such as human-elephant conflict mitigation.
Northern White Rhino
The Northern White Rhino is on the absolute brink of extinction, with only two females left under constant surveillance. Because of this dire situation, there have been groundbreaking scientific efforts to save the species through innovative methods like IVF and stem cell technologies.
Originating from New Zealand, this nocturnal parrot species celebrates unique characteristics such as its musty-sweet odor. The Department of Conservation reports that there are only 247 left today, making them one of New Zealand’s rarest animals. Some conservation efforts have steadily increased the numbers of kakapo birds across the country, although the species still faces ongoing challenges of genetic diversity.
The Chinese pangolin is a solitary, nocturnal mammal native to the northern parts of southeast Asia, southern China, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Challenges facing the Chinese pangolin include a severe trafficking threat posed by illegal wildlife trade. This is because poachers view this species’ scales as an attractive ingredient in traditional medicine. This has triggered some efforts being made to protect the Chinese pangolin via legal protections and awareness campaigns.
The gharial is known for its distinct appearance, comprising a long, narrow snout ideal for catching fish. Gharials are among the most critically endangered crocodilians, challenged in their survival efforts by hunting, human encroachment, and unsustainable fishing practices. While habitat restoration efforts in India and Nepal and breeding programs have been successful to some extent, they still face threats, including the fact that they cannot walk on land to readily disperse to other waterways.
Hawaiian Monk Seal
NOAA Fisheries describes the Hawaiian monk seal as one of the most endangered seal species across the globe. Suffering population decline for six decades, the Hawaiian monk seal has been endangered under the ESA since the mid-1970s. Isolated in the Hawaiian Islands, this species is vulnerable to environmental and human threats in the surrounding area. Despite this, some rehabilitation programs for injured seals and public awareness campaigns have been put in place to enhance conservation efforts.
In 1980, the red wolf was thought to be extinct in the U.S. Their lack of survival was a direct result of predator control programs and the degradation of their habitats. However, since then, efforts have been made to reintroduce the red wolf into the world in the U.S.
The Philippine eagle, the national symbol of the Philippines, is critically endangered, with only 400 breeding pairs remaining across four islands. Hunting, shooting, and deforestation continue to hang over this species, calling for the critical need for the conservation of tropical rainforests in the Philippines.
The National History Museum states that the axolotl is a critically endangered animal, with only around 50 to 1,000 adults believed to be living in the wilderness due to the diminishment of its primary habitat. This species has sparked considerable scientific interest due to its extraordinary ability to regenerate body parts. While it was predicted that the axolotl would be extinct by 2020, conservation through research into axolotl genetics and habitat requirements has helped them survive thus far.
Labeled as one of the most critically endangered tortoises globally, the ploughshare tortoise is threatened by habitat destruction and poaching practices. It is highly desired in the illegal pet trade because of its unique domed shell. Legal protections may be the only way to keep this species from extinction.
The addax antelope is known for being well-adapted to the Sahara Desert, with characteristics like its ability to go a long time without water. Despite this, this animal is still under threat of extinction due to hunting and habitat encroachment, which has left only a few survivors in the wild. Reintroduction programs are being put in place for the ambitious recovery of wild addax antelope populations.
According to the International Society for Endangered Cats, the Iberian lynx has been endangered since 2015, having upgraded from being critically endangered in 2002 due to Spanish and Portuguese conservation efforts. Despite this recovery, these cats still face continuous threats from habitat destruction, direct persecution, road accidents, and traps meant for other predators.
The angel shark can be identified by its original flat body and sandy color, which help it blend into the ocean floor. Despite this disguise, this marine shark is critically endangered due to targeted fishing and habitat disturbance. Restrictions on bottom trawling have been implemented to conserve the remains of essential habitats and save this species.
The Energy and Resources Institute reports that the forest owlet is only found in small areas of forest in India and was once believed to be extinct until its rediscovery in the late 1990s. This animal intensely relies on the Indian forests for its survival, meaning that any modifications to the habitat, including those due to climate change, could have severe biodiversity effects.
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