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Endangered Animals & Climate Change

CW: discussion of endangered animals, the threat to animals, and the loss of animals

Animals are going extinct at historical rates mostly due to human interference. As well as an increase in human population causing an increase in demand for food, a rise in development causing more deforestation. More problems such as overfishing, overhunting, and a growing pollution problem make environments where animals once thrived unbearable and unliveable to survive in. The current estimate says that species are going extinct up to 1,000 times faster than they did before humans existed.

Animals that went extinct in recent years

- The Pyrenean Ibex was a type of goat that went extinct in the year 2000. Some theories of why they went extinct include poaching, diseases, and the inability to compete with other species for food.

- The next animal to go extinct was the Baiji, also known as the Yangtze River dolphin - a variety of factors, such as overfishing, boat traffic, habitat loss, pollution, and poaching, caused the decline of the dolphin population. The animal lived in the Yangtze River for 20 million years, to be wiped out in less than 50 by human activity in 2006.

- Alaotra Grebe, a type of bird, was declared extinct in 2010, although they were presumed bygone years prior; the bird’s lack of adaptation caused it to go extinct due to its lack of mobility.

- Western Black rhinos were declared extinct in 2011; the rarest of the black rhino subspecies was once widespread in central Africa - however, the population started to decline due to poaching quickly.

- The Pinta Giant Tortoise was an iconic animal of the Galapagos island who sadly died in captivity in 2012. The bird, also known as the Maui Akepa, went extinct in 2018 due to avian flu.

- The Australian rodent, also known as the Bramble Cay Meloys, was declared extinct in 2019, causing human-made climate change causing habitat loss, including vegetation and rising sea levels.

- Poo-uli, the Hawaiian bird, was also declared extinct in 2019 due to habitat destruction and the rapid spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

- Spix’s Macaw, also known famously for the animated movie “Rio,” was declared extinct in the wild in 2019, caused by the illegal pet trade serving as a significant factor and habitat loss.

- Most recently, the Splendid Poison Frog went extinct in 2020 due to deforestation and habitat degradation in humid lowland and mountainous forests where it lived.

Endangered animals who are close to extinction

The first animal, Javan Rhinos, once found in south-east Asia, has suffered a decline in their population due to hunting and habitat loss. They are now considered one of the rarest rhino species, with around 75 individuals, which can only be found in Java, Indonesia. The Amur Leopard is one of the rarest big cats in the world, with only 100 left. The leopards can only be found in a small region of the far east of Russia and north-eastern China. These leopards face many threats to their survival, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, prey scarcity, and transportation infrastructure, such as roads. The Sunda Island tiger, also known as the Sumatran tiger, is the smallest tiger subspecies in the world; there are estimated to be around 600 left in the wild, and are only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. As human settlements expand in the region, Sunda Island tigers are increasingly likely to encounter people leading to a rise in human-tiger conflict, tiger poaching, and illegal trading of tiger parts and products, causing concern for their survival.

Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla, which live in 2 isolated populations in high-altitude forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, with only 1,000 left in the wild. Tapanuli orangutans are based in the tropical forests of the Batang Toru ecosystem on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat loss due to agriculture, mining, and hydroelectric and geothermal development caused only 800 left in the wild. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise in the Yangtze River in China has been listed as a critically endangered species, with 1,000 left in the wild, having the exact causes of extinction as the Yangtze River dolphins once had. Black rhinos, whose population has suffered dramatically due to large-scale poaching, are the rhinos who reside in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, with only 5,630 left in the wild. African Forest elephants, found in west and central Africa with the number of them left in the wild unknown but have declined by an estimated,

“86% over 31 years,” WWF says.

The main reason for the decline is due to poaching, habitat loss, land-use change for agriculture, and human-elephant conflict. The Sumatran orangutan, found only on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, has only 14,000 left in the wild due to logging, agricultural plantations, and expanding infrastructure development to the illicit pet trade. The Hawksbill turtle is found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, with an estimated 20,000 to 23,000 left in the wild. The decline of their population is due to fishing gear, nesting habitat degradation, coral reef damage, illegal trade of hawksbill shells and products, and other human-led threats such as plastic pollution, climate change, and rising sea levels, further declining the species in the future.

“Climate change and its warming temperatures extreme weather, and biodiversity loss are accelerating this threat. Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. To conserve nature and use its resources sustainability, “transformative changes” are needed across economic, social, political and technological areas” the UN says.

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