By: Althea Ocomen
For some species, time on planet Earth is running out. Human beings are the greatest threat to the survival of endangered species with poaching, habitat destruction, and the effects of climate change and deforestation causing detrimental problems within the environment.
5. Tooth-billed pigeon
Following the example of their relative, the extinct dodo, tooth-billed pigeons are disappearing at an alarming rate because of several environmental factors. They only live in Samoa, and there are currently only 70 to 380 left in the wild, with no captive populations to aid conservation efforts and assistance. Very little is actually known about tooth-billed pigeons because of the limited research. They are elusive and very rarely seen. Past hunting has played a big part in their decline and has killed thousands of individuals which has impacted the growth of their population. It is illegal today, but tooth-billed pigeons are still killed accidentally during hunts for other species. Currently, one of their main threats is habitat loss. Large areas of their home have been cleared to make space for agriculture, destroyed by cyclones, or taken over by invasive trees that have made it difficult for them to adjust to their environment. They are also at risk of predation from invasive species, including feral cats and other predators.
Gharials are fish-eating crocodiles from India. They have long, thin snouts with a large bump on the end, resembling a pot known as a Ghara, which is where its name was derived from. They spend most of their time in freshwater rivers and bodies of water, only leaving the water to bask in the sun and lay eggs. Unfortunately, Gharial numbers have been in decline since the 1930s, and this large crocodilian is now close to extinction. There are only around 100 to 300 left in the wild, and their population is further decreasing. Their decline is due to several issues, though all human-made. Habitat loss, pollution, and entanglement in fishing nets pose some of the biggest threats, along with poachers that target them for use in traditional medicine, and illegal hunting which further affect the growth of their population.
Kakapos are nocturnal ground-dwelling parrots from New Zealand, and yet another example of an animal brought to the edge of extinction by humans’ harmful acts. They are critically endangered with only around 140 individuals remaining, each one with an individual name. They were once common throughout New Zealand and Polynesia but now inhabit just two small islands off the coast of southern New Zealand because of the harms they have encountered. One of the main threats to Kakapos is predation from introduced species such as cats and stoats that hunt using their scent and decline their populace. A kakapo’s natural reaction is to freeze and camouflage in the background when threatened as an instinctive behavior. It is effective against predators that rely on sight to hunt but not smell. Females also leave their nest unattended when finding food, leaving the eggs freely exposed to predators for them to eat or kill. Intensive conservation measures mean the population is on the increase now, which is a positive prospect. But, genetic diversity is low among the remaining kakapo which could affect survival in the future, especially if they are struck by a disease or a massive problem.
2. Amur Leopard
Unfortunately, Amur leopards are one of the world’s most endangered big cats. They are labeled as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and between 2014 and 2015, there were only around 92 Amur leopards left within their natural range, Their population is now at great risk. That number is now estimated to be less than 70 and further decreasing. Like all species on our endangered list, humans are their biggest threat. Their beautiful coats are popular with poachers, as are their bones which they sell for use in traditional Asian medicine, and their fur for clothing. They are also at risk from habitat loss due primarily to natural and human-made wildfires. Climate change is also changing the Amur leopard habitat and leading to a decrease in prey availability, affecting the entire ecosystem.
The vaquita is both the smallest and the most endangered marine mammal in the world. It has been classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN since 1996, and in 2018, there were only around 6 to 22 vaquitas left. The latest estimate, from July 2019, suggests there are currently only 9 vaquitas. Their biggest threat is from the illegal fishing of totoaba, a large fish in demand because of its swim bladder. Vaquitas accidentally end up entangled in the gillnets set for totoaba and drown because they can no longer swim to the surface to breathe. Conservation efforts led to the introduction of a ban on gillnets in vaquita habitats back in July 2016, but illegal fishing continues, and the threat remains. Efforts now focus on enforcing the ban on gillnets and persecuting those that use them and harm the species. Conservationists are also working to decrease demand for totoaba, a protected species.
One Kind Planet
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