The world’s most endangered species are on the brink of extinction, with trafficking and illegal hunting leading to dwindling numbers.
World Animal Protection gives an eye-opening insight into five of the species who make this devastating list.
Pangolins are an example of one the most endangered species because they have been trafficked almost to extinction.
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 both heartbreaking and devastating for the dwindling Pangolin population.
“Wild animals have become a commodity,” says Audrey Mealia, Global Head of Wildlife, World Animal Protection.
“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.
“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.
More about the Pangolin
Natural Habitat: Africa and Asia
Pangolins are small cat-sized creatures covered in hardened 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, native to New Zealand, is now the rarest penguin in the world due to deforestation and predators.
Known for their distinct yellow eyes, these animals are tall and have a pale-yellow band of feathers across the nape of their eyes.
Its distinct markings make them one of the most unique penguin species.
Wildlife lovers can even catch a glimpse of them on the Nature’s Wonders wildlife tour in Dunedin, an award-winning conservation project where travelers observe animals in their natural habitat.
Travellers are not permitted to get too close or touch the endangered animals.
Natural Habitat: Asia
The Saola is one of the rarest mammals on the most endangered species list and is known as the ‘Asian unicorn’.
Although they are known as the ‘Asian unicorn’, Saolas descend from cattle and goats.
The species was first discovered in 1992; however, the first live photograph of the mysterious creature wasn’t captured until 1999.
It’s thought that Saolas are critically endangered because of loss of habitat.
Those remaining occupy the Animated Mountains of Vietnam and Laos.
They are widely considered as one of the most spectacular zoological discoveries of the 20th century.
Natural Habitat: Gulf of California
The vaquita is described as the sea’s little pig or cow and inhabit the Gulf of California.
There is only approximately six to 22 vaquita porpoises remaining.
In 1997, the population was estimated at 600.
Conservationists have invested millions of dollars into the plight to keep the species alive, but they have been under threat from illegal fishing.
Vaquitas have been caught up in illegal gillnets that are used for capturing the totoaba fish.
These creatures are said to have a kind, shy and gentle nature.
Southern White Rhino
Natural Habitat: Kenya, East Africa
Southern and central Africa are home to two of the last remaining adult female southern white rhino.
Though prior 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 information about endangered species, head to www.worldanimalprotection.org.au