5 Lesser Known Animals On The Brink Of Extinction
The number of critically endangered animals is far longer than most people realise. As well as the familiar faces of Gorillas, Pandas and Polar Bears, there are numerous different fish, insects and a huge amount of plants on the list. So bringing attention and awareness to them all is a mammoth task, but we can try. Everyone knows that the Mountain Gorilla is heavily endangered, but did you know about these;
Madagascan Pochard –
This first little known endangered species was thought to be extinct in the mid 1990's but then rediscovered in 2006. As of 2013, the population was around 80 individuals. The cause for the rapid decline in the 1950's was the introduction to multiple new species of fish in the lake in which they lived. This killed many chicks and damaged nesting sites. Conservation efforts picked up speed in 2009 and helped grow the population of the Madagascan Pochard significantly. Think how few there were if a 'significant population growth' brought their total to 80!
Amsterdam Albatross -
The second bird on our list, rightly named due to its endemic population residing on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean, this massive bird was only acknowledged as a species in 1983. At the time of its discovery there were only five breeding pairs. That number has since increased, but the world population is still estimated to be between 80 and 130 individuals. The main threat has been the loss of habitat due to the introduction of feral cats and cattle to the island. Since 1983 a non-stop conservation project has been in place to nurture the habitat of the Amsterdam Albatross.
Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle –
This one is definitely the rarest on our list and one of the rarest species alive. There are only 4 known individuals of the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle. Reaching weights of 100 kilograms with a shell measuring over a metre long, it is indeed a giant native of the Yangtze River in China. Loss of habitat and hunted for food for hundreds, maybe thousands of years means that of the last 4 individuals, two are in captivity in the hope that they will breed. These animals are immensely mysterious, looking quite bizarre for a turtle and living to a great age they often accompany strange unexplained mythical stories and legends. One individual, who died in 2007, had been a resident of a Buddhist temple. The monks of this temple state that it had been given to the temple during the Ming Dynasty... 400 years earlier. Incredible or what.
The first mammal to appear on our list, this small porpoise is a resident of the northern portion of the Gulf of California and found nowhere else on earth. In 2014 it was estimated that fewer than 100 individuals remained. It has never been actively hunted, but its numbers have fallen due to the illegal hunting of a Totoaba fish which has had a growing demand from China. Both animals are about a metre long and so the nets used to catch the Totoaba fish also catch the small porpoise. Conservation efforts for this animal are well under way as further policing of specific areas of the Gulf of California are attempting to stamp out the illegal capture of Totoaba fish and in turn the Vaquita.
The Hirola is an antelope species from the border lands between Kenya and Somalia with roughly 300 individuals left. This species doesn't exist in captivity anywhere in the world and conservational efforts have been marginal. According to the IUCN the loss of the Hirola would be "the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in modern human history". Big words, but the fact remains that little is being done to protect it. Some of the main threats include poaching, predation and competition for food and water from domestic livestock. During the mid-1980's there was estimated to be an 85 to 90 percent decline in their numbers and continuing at their current rate of decline, the Hirola could be gone by 2025.
The outlook is fairly bleak for all of these species, but progress and efforts are taking place to save them and, hopefully, the next time they're featured in a list it'll be entitled "5 lesser known animals that survived the brink of extinction."