In today’s modern world, there is an ever increasing list of factors leading to the continuing extinction of Earth’s animal species. Deforestation, urbanization, pollution, and global warming brought on by human practice have lead to roughly 38% of all identified species becoming endangered, and in the past five hundred years at least one thousand species becoming extinct. The following list is comprised of the worlds most critically endangered species.
5. Santa Catarina’s Guinea Pig (Cavia intermedia)
This species of wild guinea pig is found on the small island of Moleques do Sol in Brazil, South America. Their species distribution is limited to just a quarter of a square mile, which means that the population is naturally very limited. Due to suspected hunting and habitat disturbance, the population has declined significantly.
4. Fatu Hiva Monarch (Pomarea whitneyi)
This bird falls under the category of Flycatchers, and is native to French Polynesia, on the island of Fatu Hiva. Another victim of an initially small population, the introduction of black rats in 2000 has lead to an overall 90% decrease in population; of the fifty individuals that were counted as a part of the observation study, its estimated that only thirty three of those are mature, breeding age birds.
3. Chinese Crested Tern (Sterna bernsteini)
< 50 individuals
Another bird, this rare species is closely related to the Lesser Crested Tern, so close that only their bill patterns are different. It was thought to be extinct until 2000 when only four mating pairs were discovered nesting among a Greater Crested Tern colony in the Matsu Islands off the coast of China. It was once found in the coastal Shandong Province, however egg collection and habitat destruction have driven the birds out.
2. Madagascar Pochard (Aythya innotata)/ Hainan Gibbon (Nomascus hainanus)
The second most endangered animal is actually a tie;
- the Madagascar Pochard, a diving duck that was thought to be extinct and then rediscovered in 2006, and
- the Hainan Gibbon, which makes its home on Hainan Island in China.
Both species are limited to an estimated twenty individuals. Both species also have seen a rapid decline due to hunting and “slash and burn” agriculture as well as urbanization.
1. Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei)
Although certainly not the prettiest animal on the planet, this species of softshell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world, and the most endangered animal in the world. With just four mature individuals existing in the wild, its safe to say that there is a real chance this turtle will be extinct in the next five years if something is not done. Habitat destruction and pollution have played a major role in its destruction, along with hunting; it is often confused with other breeds of softshell turtle and killed by mistake. This species makes its home in China and Vietnam, with the four wild turtles residing in Vietnam, and two captive turtles (a hopeful breeding pair) at Suzhou zoo in China.
All five of the most endangered animal species on the planet are numbered at less than one hundred. It’s both daunting and upsetting to think that without assistance, these animals may disappear from the planet forever in our lifetime. There are organizations around the world working to make sure that this doesn’t happen, but it will take the work of everyone to keep these, and all animals adjusting to the ever increasing human presence.
Baillie, Jonathan E , and Ellen R Butcher. Priceless or Worthless? The World’s Most Threatened Species. London: Zoological Sociey of London, 2012.
WWF - Priority and endangered species