The extinction of at least 500 species of animals has been caused by man, most of them in this century. Today there are about 5,000 endangered animals and at least one species dies out every year. The number is rapidly growing, some species becoming endangered without most of us even knowing it. Their value is of utter importance, since they are responsible for a variety of useful medications. The first step towards saving animals is to learn as much as possible about them. So here is a look at some of the most endangered species of animals around the world:
1. Greater Horseshoe Bat - There are fourteen species of bat in Britain and all of them are endangered. The greater horseshoe bat is one of the rarest. There are currently 35 recognised maternity and all-year roosts and 369 hibernation sites. Current estimates range between 4,000 and 6,600 individuals. They have also suffered from the use of insecticides (poisonous chemicals sprayed on to crops to kill harmful insects) which have deprived the bats of their insect food.
2. Siberian Tiger - It is highly endangered and there may be fewer than 200 in the wild, probably all in special nature reserves. The are hunted because a poacher can feed his family for a year on the proceeds of just one tiger kill.
3. Loggerhead Turtle - This threatened reptile lives in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the Black Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The turtle was once intensively hunted for their meat and eggs, but its fat was also used in the cosmetic industry. Many of these animals die annually caught in the fishing nets of crabfishers. In Turkey, hotels have been built right on its breeding sites.
4. White Tailed Fish Eagle - Before man experimented with the use of pheromones, this spectacular bird of prey was much more numerous than it is today. They have also been hunted by shepherds and gamekeepers that considered them a threat to their sheep or birds. With intense conservation actions, the populations in eastern Europe recovered, recovery plans are aimed at colonizing some traditional breeding areas in Europe.
5. Mandarin Duck - This bird can be seen Britain, but its native home is across eastern Asia, in Russia, China, Korea and Japa. Worldwide population status is unknown, the current Asian population being somewhere under 20,000. Extinction of these beautiful birds is due to mainly loggers, hunters and poachers. Known predators include mink, raccoon dog, otters, polecats, eagle owls and grass snakes.
6. Lion-Tailed Macaque - These animals live in several areas in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Many of India’s tropical forests, the monkey’s natural habitat, have been cleared and replaced with tea and coffee plantations. As with so many mammals, currently the main threat in the wild is destruction of their habitat. Poachers have also captured baby macaques, often killing their parents in the process, for illegal export to collectors. They are considered to be the most endangered monkey, with only 400 individuals left in the wild. They are hunted for their flesh and fur.
7. Jackass Penguin - Once the most common sea-bird in in South Africa, the jackass penguin is the only penguin to be found in Africa. Because they live so far north, and in a relatively accessible region, African penguins have been particularly vulnerable to human depredation. Considering the decline in food supplies, seals now prey on the penguins instead. Oil pollution also threatens them, as does the taking of their eggs for food.
8. Mountain Gorilla - The Virunga volcanoes region in eastern Zaire, Rwanda and Uganda is the only home of the highly endangered mountain gorilla. They are frequently killed by traps and snares intended for other animals, face habitat loss and are vulnerable to many of the same diseases as humans. It depends on dense forests for survival and these are steadily being cut down to make way for crop growing and livestock grazing. Humans and gorillas are 98% genetically identical so they are also exposed to human disease. This is the most endangered of the gorilla subspecies, only about 700 mountain gorillas remain in the wild.
9. Numbat - They inhabit woodlands in Western Australia, this is the only state in which they are found in the wild. The numbat is now extinct throughout much of its range. It survives in the wild only in a small area in the southwest corner of Australia. When man introduced predatory animals such as cats, dogs and foxes, these animals ate many numbats. Their numbers are still declining since many of the areas that constituted their habitats are being cleared for farming and mining.
10. Black Footed Ferret - This is one of the most endangered mammals in North America, an animal on the edge of extinction in the wild. Loss of habitat is the primary reason black-footed ferrets remain near the brink of extinction. The remaining prairie dog colonies are small and fragmented, separated by great expanses of cropland and human development. By the year 2010, biologists hope to have 1500 ferrets established in the wild, with no fewer than 30 breeding adults in each population.