10 Animals That Could be Extinct in our Lifetime

Wildlife — By on December 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

Y2919179438 35c8879bdd m 10 Animals That Could be Extinct in our Lifetimeou know, among my conservative friends, one of the things I hear most often is the claim that global climate change is not real.  Even if it is, they say, wouldn’t it be a good thing for temperatures to be just a tad warmer than they are now?  My answer is – not unless they are supposed to be, and more specifically, not unless animal species do not die out as a result.

Sadly, its not just global warming that is causing us to lose some of the most special animals on earth.  Habitat loss, over-hunting and the introduction of animals into areas in which they are not native – all caused by humans – are to blame.

What species of animals do we stand to lose over the next 40 years?  You may be surprised!

1.  Lions.  According to the BBC, there are only about 23,000 lions left in the wild, compared with 200,000 two decades ago.  That is a pretty precipitous drop, if you ask me!  Lions are the world’s second largest cats, following the tigers, and they are found primarily in Asia and Saharan Africa.  They are critically endangered in India (only a few hundred left).  Because lions have no natural predators, their recent decline in numbers can only be attributed to the loss of habitat and other conflicts with human habitation.  Will we lose the “King of the Jungle” in the next 30-50 years?  Signs point to yes, unless we do something otherwise.

2.  Polar Bears.  I will tell you a secret.  I cannot resist a cute photo of a polar bear cub!  They are amazing, beautiful animals and, sadly, their habitat is shrinking dramatically every year with melting ice caps.  Polar bears get stranded and drown in the Arctic Sea, and they cannot find food to feed their young.  At current rates, 2/3 of the world’s polar bears will be gone in 40 years.  It wouldn’t take a lot more to push them over the tipping point to the brink of extinction.  Only about 20,000 polar bears exist in the wild.

356796240 e70b6906d1 m 10 Animals That Could be Extinct in our Lifetime3.  Galapagos Iguanas.  Pictured to the left, the Galapagos Iguana is another endangered species that may not make it another 50-100 years.  Found in the birthplace of evolution, only 5,000-10,000 of this species remain in the wild.  Obviously, this poor reptile is not adaptive to the changing world.  One wonders how many more years the Galapagos Iguanas can survive in the wild.  Charles Darwin would be very upset!

While this iguana was once so plentiful that Darwin remarked,

“when we were left at James, we could not for some time find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent,”

they have now been largely wiped out by pigs, cats, dogs and rats, introduced into the area by non-indigenous people.  Nothing like changing natural evolution by having new creatures come into established habitats.

4.  Siberian Tigers.  Even more drastic than the lion decline is the one suffered by the Siberian Tiger.  From 100,000 down to 8,000 in population, people wonder why this Tiger species is so rare in the wild.  In fact, the most sobering statistics is that there are less than 500 Siberian Tigers that still remain in their native areas of Russia.  Why are the magnificent cats disappearing?  It is a result of habitat loss from logging and development, as well as poaching for fur and body parts required for Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Astoundingly, a single tiger is worth $50,000 on the International Market.  What can we do to bring that number down?  Obviously, the economic worth of a tiger is more than allowing it to live undisturbed in the wild.

5.  Whooping Crane.  The Whooping Crane has been endangered since the year before I was born.  So, in some ways, one might get cynical and think that we really don’t need to worry about this bird.  Alarmingly, however, as of just over one year ago, there were only 52 surviving whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population.  How much longer can this species survive?  In general, the Whooping Cranes winter in Texas, and eat a broad range of food, being ominvores.  But with numbers so small, it is only a matter of time before these birds can only be found in textbooks.

6.  Green Sea Turtle.  The Green Sea Turtle is listed as endangered in Florida waters and along the Pacific coast of Mexico.  Globally, their numbers have dropped an astounding 50-60% in the past decade.  The main reason for their decline is human harvest of eggs, adults and juveniles in hatching and feeding grounds.  Green Sea Turtles also get caught in gillnets, traps and trawls, as an incidental causalty of commercial fishing.  Fortunately, there have been some efforts to prevent inadvertent Sea Turtle killings by fishermen.  Will those be enough to bring the species back from the brink of extinction?

424356713 23c168d4fd m 10 Animals That Could be Extinct in our Lifetime7.  Mountain Gorilla.  Hard to believe that one of man’s closest primate relatives could soon be gone from the face of the earth.  The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in four wildlife parks near Uganda and Rwanda.  Why are they almost gone?  Their habitat is critically endagered as deforestation continues to strip away the forests in which they live.  I was astounded to learn that only 720 mountain gorillas are left in the world.  This is truly a species for which we must take immediate action if we want our children’s children to ever see these amazing animals.

8.  Indiana Bat. This tiny mammal, only 2 inches long in length and weighing a fraction of an ounce was listed on the original Endangered Species List back in the 1970s.  The primary reason for their threatened status is the fact that they inhabit only a few caves in the U.S. and Canada, and are seriously disrupted when humans come in to explore the caves.  Noise makes them leave their homes.  Because only one baby is born to a female at a time, the numbers simply cannot keep up.  Their population has dropped by 50% since 1975.  Even if you are not a fan of bats, remember that they are critical in keeping certain insect populations down – like mosquitoes.  No bats = more mosquitoes.  That’s not a good place to be.

2521930853 4f13feac84 m 10 Animals That Could be Extinct in our Lifetime9.  Puerto Rican Parrot.  This is the only remaining native parrot in Puerto Rico and its numbers are now critically low, with less than 50 individuals existing in the wild.  Sadly the parrot was once abundant just 100 years ago, but its habitat has been vanishing rapidly with deforestation.  Even in captivity, there are only about 140 Puerto Rican Parrots left in the world.  They are literally 2 steps away from extinction.

10.  Blue Whale.  Can you believe that the largest mammal (and arguably the largest animal) in the world is on the brink of extinction?  Due in large part to whaling practices, there are less than 10,000 Blue Whales left in the Southern Hemisphere, and not even half that number in the Northern Hemisphere.  To put these numbers in perspective, consider that in 1931, a record 29,000 Blue Whales were slaughtered by humans – more than double the entire remaining population.  Before whaling, there were about 350,000 Blue Whales in the world.  They have been protected by the International Whaling Commission since 1966, but since 99% of the population had been killed off, it has been a slow recovery for these gentle giants.

The innocence and power of a child’s words can sometimes strike you to the bone.  Just this morning, my son (who had no idea I was drafting this post) asked me what would happen if humans were gone from the earth.  As I often do, I turned the question around on him and asked him what he thought.  His answer sends chills down my spine:

The animals would be so happy, they would take over the world again.  All the endangered species would start multiplying and would have safe places to live and food to eat.  The buildings would crumble within 100 years.   All living creatures would have a home.  They wouldn’t be afraid any more.

Something to think about, don’t you agree?

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12 Comments

  1. Graham Cliff says:

    I found this statement of great interest – “Even if you are not a fan of bats, remember that they are critical in keeping certain insect populations down – like mosquitoes. No bats = more mosquitoes. That’s not a good place to be.”
    I could not agree more HOWEVER are you aware that the bane of astronomers light at night, LAN causing light pollution, LP was predicted as long ago as May 1994 to be a serious threat to insect populations? Colin Henshaw’s letter is archived at Harvard here –
    The Environmental Effects of Light Pollution, JBAA, May 1994
    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/seri/JBAA./0104//0000313.000.html
    Please realise the implications of this are that insects decline and therefore ALL insectivores starve? This includes bats birds and small mammals. The IUCN have already stated, in Barcelona and now in Poland, that this is actually happening? Moreover the loss of the night means that nocturnal creatures are compromised. Whip-poor-wills, night jars and masked owls are already in serious decline. An NY friend tells me that in 1983 he couted 200 pairs of whip-poor-wills in 1983. His count last year was only 7 pairs. Makes you think?

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hello Graham, thank you for the link and additional information. Poor animals are getting impacted in so many ways from human behavior. Light pollution is just one more way that we threaten the habitats and survival of animals – in more ways that we might think.

    How disturbing to hear of your friend’s counting of whip-poor-wills. It definitely makes you think.

    Thanks for the helpful comment, Stephanie

  3. Anto says:

    It is unfortunate that your conservative friend thinks that global warming can actually be a good thing. But I have hopes that the World’s general consciousness will change in the next years and the environment will become number one priority.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Hi Anto – some people will just not listen, no matter what you say! I agree with you that hopefully someday soon, more people will agree that its time to take action to take action against global warming.

    Stephanie

  5. Normally, I don’t watch videos but I watched every one of these with great interest. I was sad to find out that all the whooping cranes died but I’m glad the folks that help them aren’t giving up.

    I am very definitely NOT a fan of bats…or snakes or wasps, but I can very much appreciate what they do to keep things in check on our planet. If they become extinct, balance will be thrown off kilter.

    Graham Cliff’s comment about light polution really struck me – I had not even considered the impact of lighting. Wow.

    Thanks for making us all aware of the extent our actions are having on the animals and the planet, Stephanie!

    Shirley

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hi Shirley,

    Thank you for visiting our site and leaving a comment! At times, the videos are very upsetting, but thankfully there are super organizations (and websites) to put out the word and let people know what they can do to help. And yes, your observation about “less popular” animals is quite true. Every living creature has an important role here on earth and there is likely at least one additional species that is depending on its survival.

    I appreciate your kind words. Take care, Stephanie

  7. judy elliot says:

    Thank you for this beautiful web site. I am going to share it with my acting class of Middle Schoolers – some of whom do not really believe that Global Warming will impact them in their lifetime. I hope they will think and write an improv we can use for our final project.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Hi Judy,

    Thank you for such a positive comment. I hope that you get some great writing from your middle schoolers on this issue.

    Cheers, Stephanie

  9. brad says:

    well as much as nobody want to see animals die off its part of the world that some animals just cant be around forever get over and for global warming is again part of what the world does how can anyone say that humans are ruining the world we are animals and its not are fault we are better at not dieing then polar bears lol thing of all the new animals that can live and grow bigger when whales die think about it maybe u will learn its not always a bad thing

  10. i feel so sorry for the indiana bat which lives in the u.s and canada, it is infected with noise pollution. Of course if you try to educate the canadians and the u.s the will never understand till the day they die. No bats= more mosquitoes. Obama you need to do something about your country, they need to care for animals.

  11. thank you for the information …..

  12. Siberian tigers, South China tigers and snow leopards are the most endangered cat species in the world. In the wild they were fewer than three thousand, and their number is constantly decreasing. People hunt them for their fur and because of traditional Asian medicine. It would be a shame that these amazing animals are gone forever, and remain only in stories.

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