By now, most of us are aware that our beloved mountain gorillas, snow leopards and giant pandas are critically endangered. But what about the lesser known wildlife that are also under deep threat? Whether they’re being hunted for money, or their habitats are being destroyed, these eight vulnerable critters need to be saved before they become extinct!
The sweet pangolin has been around since prehistoric times, but sadly they are now the world’s most hunted creature. Prince William’s favourite animal is distinguished by it’s scaled shell, and can be found in the regions of Africa and Asia. It is similar in form to the American armadillo, but it prefers a more tropical climate and eats only ants. Over 100,000 pangolins are killed every year for their meat and scales.
The graceful vaquita bears resemblance to a dolphin, but it is actually a rare form of porpoise. It’s habitat is limited to the Gulf of California, and it can be spotted by recognizing it’s white and grey markings. Due to their coastal location, they are known to get caught in illegal fishing nets across the east-pacific coast. As of 2015, there are less than 100 vaquitas left in the world.
This stunning creature is related to antelopes, goats and cattle, and yet it is one of the most scarce animals on the planet. It is endemic to the Annamite Range of Laos and Vietnam, and lives mainly on fig leaves, stems and dark green plants. Saola are critically endangered due to trophy hunters who kill them and sell their fur and meat. It is estimated that less than 500 exist in the world today.
4. North Atlantic Right Whale
This is one of the lesser known species of whale the dwells in the western North Atlantic Ocean. The right whale is the only whale to have a smooth back without a dorsel fin, as well as distinctive callosities on its head (which look kind of like barnacles). The reason they are so endangered is because of vessel strikes (colliding with ships), along with entanglement in gill nets. There are only around 200 right whales left on the Earth, making them the most threated whale in the world.
5. Black-Footed Ferret
Black-footed ferrets may look similar to the domestic ferrets we all know and love, but they are actually completely different in terms of species and behaviour. They mainly live in solitude and are much more cautious around humans than pet ferrets are. They almost went extinct in 1987 as there were only 18 left in their native habitat, North America. Luckily, they were captured and bred, but there are still only 500 left in the world. This is because their natural food source, the prairie dog, is regularly hunted for recreation.
6. Humphead Wrasse
This unusual breed of fish is known for its protruding hump on its forehead and it’s thick lips. It is one of the largest reef fishes on the planet and can grow up to 2 metres long. Due to its size and uniqueness, the humphead wrasse is sought after by fishermen, and over the past 30 years, the population has reduced by 50%! It is now protected in some regions such as Australia, but in Southeast Asia illegal harvesting of the fish is still a deep concern.
7. Greater Sage-Grouse
The greater-sage grouse is the largest of the grouse species and can be found in western North America. One remarkable feature of this bird is the ‘courtship dance’. During mating season, it displays two yellowish air sacs on its chest and struts around, fanning its tail feathers. It is in danger of extinction because it’s primary food source, the sagebrush, is increasingly threatened by gas and oil drilling, and off-road vehicle use.
The eccentric-looking Dugong is a marine mammal that dwells in the Indo-Pacific ocean (mainly on the western Australian coast). It is closely related to the manatee, but instead of a large paddle tail, it has tail flukes like that of a whale. Their sea grass habitat is currently in peril due to pollution from industrial waste. They are also often the accidental victims of fishing, due to entanglement in the nets.
For more information about how to help conservation of these wonderful creatures, please visit World Wildlife.