It is thought that at this moment in history, that around a quarter of the earth’s land mammals are at risk of extinction. Even more worrying it appears that many species disappear from the face of the earth without us or scientists knowing anything about them. Out of the 5,487 known species of mammal over 1,100 are currently ‘threatened’ meaning if the environmental situation were to get worse for these mammals then this could quickly lead to extinction. What is known as the ‘RED list’ which is produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature now sees 188 species of land mammals as being ‘critically endangered’. This status is obviously very bad news for any species and usually means less than a thousand exist in the wild. In this article we look at 10 different land mammals that are seen as critically endangered around the world.
Native to the rural plains of China and Mongolia there are only about 250 of these rare horses left in the wild. The Przewalski horse often resembles a horse that you and I would see in a country field except for having shorter legs and a bulkier body as well as sporting a mane that is constantly erect. The Przewalski was thought to be completely extinct in the wild in 1966 with only a few hundred of the horses being kept in zoos around the world. Following preservation efforts sixteen horses were released into the wild in 1992 and the wild population has been growing steadily since. Despite this only 1,500 of the horses are remaining around the world.
Florida Bonneted Bat
At one point in 2002 it was thought that this particular bat had become totally extinct. However, since then, a handful of colonies have been found around the Florida area with only around 250 thought to be in existence. The Florida Bonneted Bat like other mammals has always been low on numbers and managed to survive. Despite this, the bat, which thrives mainly in suburban and rural areas is very susceptible to changes in the environment such as hurricanes and pesticide spraying which lowers their chance of survival.
The Hirola, otherwise known as Hunter’s Harebeast is a species of antelope that originates from the plains on the border between Kenya and Somalia. Since the 1980’s the Hirola have experienced a sudden and massive decline in population of around 90%. Changes in habitat over the years such as severe drought (1984) as well as the Hirola being hunted by poachers mean that there are thought to be around 800 alive today, all in the wild except for two in captivity.
The island fox receives its name on the basis that it can only be found within the channel islands off the coast of southern California. The extinction status of the Island Fox was upgraded in 2004 to ‘critically endangered’ after huge percentage declines in the animal due to deaths inflicted by predatory Golden Eagles. Population decline is expected to continue and could be even worse if a canine disease were to break out amongst the population. Based on the fact that the Golden Eagle is the main contributor the Island Fox decline, conservationists have proposed that the eagles should be moved to further away islands or mainland California.
The Indonesian island of Sumatra has long been a focus of environmental activists due to the exploitation of animal habitats through deforestation. One of the most threatened species on this island are the Sumatran orang-utan who have seen an 80% decline in population over the last 75 years. Only certain areas of Sumatra are protected from deforestation but the majority of the orang-utans live outside these safe havens meaning their habitat is constantly under threat. In total there is thought to be around 7,000 of the Sumatran orang-utan in existence, but following the large need for timber in Indonesia after the 2004 Tsunami there is a downward trend in survival for the primates.
Possibly the most rare land mammal left on the planet there are thought to be only 50 of the Javan Rhino’s in existence. These rhinoceros are prime victims of poaching particularly by those linked to the Chinese black market. The rhino horn, which is much sought after in Chinese medicine will sell for tens of thousands of dollars. As well as this, a more worrying trend is that the already tiny colonies of Javan Rhinos have showed no sign of breeding activity. This could be because the remaining rhinos are too old to breed or that one sex greatly outweighs the other.
Cross River Gorilla
A subspecies of the Western Gorilla, the Cross River Gorilla can only be found within the forested borders between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Cross River Gorilla is to a large extent unstudied and therefore unprotected. Sightings of the Gorrila are quite rare due to their habitiat being in thick forested mountains but rough estimates have shown that around 280 exist in the wild. The Cross River Gorillas are under threat from humans who will hunt the animals for bushmeat to sell and also suffer from loss of habitat through deforestation. A 2007 journal on Primatology states that the Cross River Gorillas have been seen fighting back against humans who threaten their territory by ‘throwing sticks and clumps of grass.’
Black Footed Ferret
The only ferret native to Northern Americ a the Black Footed Ferret went slmost completely extinct in the wild in 1986 when only 18 ferrets were in existence. Only because of extensive conservation and breeding programmes have allowed the Black Footed Ferret to be released into the wild where there are about 500 today. The ferrets hunt on wide grasslands where they prey on Prairie dogs. The huge decline of the mammal came about due to the lack of this certan prey coupled with canine diseases.