Is there a single soul out there who doesn’t love animals? We imagine that even the most hated of people (poachers, for example) still have a favorite animals. Cats, dogs and unicorns are all great, and have produced many animal jokes, but what about picking an animal that could use some attention?
Unfortunately, many of the animals on National Geographic’s most endangered list are facing catastrophic extinction due to human impact. Centuries of hunting, poaching, and private capture does not end without repercussions and now it’s up to us to undo what human kind has wrought, if it’s not too late that is. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the rarest animals on the verge of extinction and in desperate need of a champion. Pull out these fun facts during family game night to impress the kids.
1. Amur Leopard
At one time, these extraordinarily fast cats (they run about 37 mph) could be found in Russia, China and Korea. These days, the 60-ish remaining leopards all reside in Russia, along the Amur River basin.
2. Black-footed ferret
In the 1980s, only 18 black-footed ferrets remained. and scientists created a captive breeding program. Thanks to that program, there are now 300 to 400 of their species. While that’s a massive improvement, it still puts them on the endangered list.
3. Bornean Orangutan
Threatened by both hunting and deforestation, the Bornean Orangutan’s population has decreased some 60 percent since the 50s. Making re-population even harder: The female can only reproduce once every six to eight years.
4. Darwin’s Fox
Named after Charles Darwin, these super cute foxes can only be found in Chile and are best spotted at night, when they come out to hunt and play. They’re considered an umbrella species — meaning the ecosystem will fail without their existence.
5. Giant Otter
It’s a one-two punch for the giant otter population. First, their numbers were cut significantly when they were hunted for their pelts. Once laws were enforced to protect them from hunters, they then faced threats to their South American habitats.
6. Hainan Gibbon
Perhaps the most endangered animal on this list, there are now only 28 Hainan Gibbons left in the world. Their dwindling numbers are blamed on the fact that about 95 percent of their natural habitat has been destroyed.
7. Madagascar’s Greater Bamboo Lemur
Of all the species of lemur, the Bamboo Lemur has the smallest population with only about 100 documented animals. They were actually already thought to be extinct until a scientist discovered another pocket of them in 1986.
Pangolins are considered one of the most trafficked mammals in the world. Roughly 100,000 of these cat-sized creatures are captured and moved each year.
9. Peruvian Spider Monkey
Found in the Amazon, the Peruvian Spider Monkey is another umbrella species, whose messy eating habits lead to scattered fruit seeds and regrowth of trees. Their population has decreased 50 percent since the 70s, due mostly to the destruction of their native habitat.
Only 7 to 8 inches long and found in the remote Xinjiang region of China, there are only about 1000 pika left in the world, thanks to climate change.
11. Red Wolves
It’s estimated that only 25 to 40 red wolves are left roaming wild. They mostly reside in Eastern North Carolina, despite the fact that not that long ago, they roamed as far south as Florida. Fun fact: They mate for life.
Referred to as the “Asian unicorn,” the saola has only been spotted in the wild four times. They live in Laos and Vietnam.
13. Sumatran Rhino
While multiple species of rhino are endangered, thanks to poachers after their horns, the Sumatran Rhino has the worst number. Very few reside in the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Captive breeding programs have been mostly unsuccessful, producing only two offspring in some 15 years.
Only roughly 60 vaquitas remain in the world today. Relatives of dolphins and whales, these cuties only grow to about five feet long. They’ve seen a near 40 percent decrease in population of the last five years, thanks to illegal fishing activity in the Gulf of Mexico.
15. White-Rumped Vulture
This particular species of vulture has seen a population decrease of 99 percent since the 1980s. They feed on cows and their decline is often blamed on Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory often found in bovine carcasses.
16. Gobi Bear
A native of the Gobi desert in Mongolia, the Gobi bear was declared as critically endangered by the Mongolian Redbook of Endangered Species and by the Zoological Society of London as there were only 30 known adults in 2009. They are genetically isolated enough from other brown bears to consider them in reproductive isolation.
17. Seneca White Deer
Numbering at 300 total, the Seneca white deer are leucitic, which means they lack pigmentation in their skin but still have brown eyes. They have been given protected status and space at the former Seneca Army Depot and are actually open to viewings from the public.
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