Across the world, many species are on the brink of extinction. World Animal Protection gives an eye-opening insight into five of the world’s most endangered species.
Pangolins are the most trafficked animals in the world, with poachers targeting them for their unique scales, particularly across Asia, leading to the animal becoming critically endangered.
Travelling through south east Asia, the impact of the illegal wildlife trade is immediately evident. It is not uncommon to see pangolins being kept in cages outside restaurants for food. The trade is heartbreaking, and devastating for the dwindling Pangolin population.
“Wild animals have become a commodity. Every day they are being poached from the wild for their bodies to be harvested. Not only is this a major conservation issue – it’s a devastating animal welfare concern,” says Audrey Mealia, Global Head of Wildlife, World Animal Protection.
“Does the life of an animal mean nothing at all? We need to do much more to protect wild animals from this cruelty by clamping down on the illegal poaching trade. Pangolins – and other wild animals – belong in the wild,” Audrey says.
There are many more animals alongside the pangolin that are threatened by extinction and the time to act is now. To educate our animal loving travellers we have put together a list of some of the most endangered species around the world.
Natural Habitat: Africa and Asia
Pangolins are small cat-sized creatures covered in hardened overlapping plate-like scales that account for 20 per cent of their weight. There are eight species that mainly occupy Africa and Asia, and they are all considered either vulnerable or critically endangered.
The animals also have the ability to roll up into a ball, creating a hard, spiky, impenetrable sphere that even the jaws of lions, tigers and leopards can’t break. On the downside, this means humans can capture them as easily as picking up a ball. Some people believe their scales can stimulate lactation, cure cancer or cure asthma. The scales can be worth $3,000 per kilogram on the black market.
Natural Habitat: Dunedin, New Zealand
The yellow-eyed penguin is native to New Zealand and is now the most rare penguin in the world due to deforestation and mammalian predators. Known for their distinct yellow eyes, these animals are tall, yellow and have a pale yellow uncrested band of feathers across the nape of their eyes. The yellow eyed penguin has such distinct markings that it is one of the most unique penguins to find. Wildlife lovers can even catch a glimpse of them on the Nature’s Wonders wildlife tour in Dunedin, an award winning conservation letting travellers observe animals from a safe distance. Travellers are not permitted to get too close or touch the endangered animals.
Natural Habitat: Asia
Known as the ‘Asian unicorn,’ the saola, or siola, is one of the rarest mammals on earth. This descendent of cattle, goats, and antelopes was first discovered in 1992 and the first live photograph of the mysterious creature was captured in 1999. Soalas occupy the Animated Mountains of Vietnam and Laos and are critically endangered due to a loss of habitat, but no one knows how many there are in existence. They are widely considered as one of the most spectacular zoological discoveries of the 20th century.
Animal: The Vaquita
Natural Habitat: Gulf of California
The vaquita is one of the most endangered species on the earth. They inhabit the Gulf of California and are often described as the sea’s little pig or cow. The population was estimated at 600 in 1997, and despite the millions of dollars being put towards their conservation, a report released in March 2019 showed there are only approximately 6-22 vaquita porpoises remaining. The biggest threat to vaquitas is becoming trapped in illegal gillnets that are popular in the Gulf of California for capturing the totoaba fish. These creatures are said to have a kind, shy and gentle nature.
Animal:Northern White Rhino
Natural Habitat: Kenya, East Africa
Southern and central Africa are home to two of the last remaining adult female southern white rhino. Until an artificial breakthrough, which lead to the first artificially inseminated southern white rhino being born, this species was critically extinct due to the death of the breed’s last male. These rhinoceros can be distinguished from common black rhino’s due to their larger size and squared upper lip. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in East Africa even offers travellers the rare opportunity to see the two final adult white rhinos left in existence, Nahjin and Fatu, in their natural habitat.
For more info, go to www.worldanimalprotection.org.au