To properly practice environmental sustainability, we must be considerate toward all aspects of the world around us, and this entails the conservation of endangered animal species. This is a part of sustainability that mankind has sadly overlooked in the past, resulting in the extinction of rare and fascinating creatures ranging from the passenger pigeon to the tasmanian tiger.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) currently lists a variety of animals in its threatened, vulnerable, and endangered species directory, and unfortunately, many of them have reached “critically endangered” status, indicating that they sit on the threshold of extinction. To learn from our past mistakes, and to remain consistent in our stewardship, we must showcase these animals as priorities in our overall sustainable agenda.
Here is a closer look at a few of the world’s most endangered species.
The Javan rhinoceros is one of the rarest rhino species on record, and it has rapidly declined in numbers as a result of poaching and black market trading. The rhino’s horn is coveted in some cultures as a medicinal item, and paired with years of relentless trophy hunting, this notion has made the rhino an easy target for a multiplicity of corrupt reasons. There is currently only one known rhino population left in the world.
Though conservation efforts are arguably stronger than ever, the species’s prospects for long term survival are grim. Many conservation geneticists estimate “a population of 100 rhinos would be needed to preserve the species genetic diversity,” making conservation an uphill battle. Efforts must focus on preserving rhinos left in the wild, as specimens have exhibited a poor history of survival in captivity.
Mountain gorillas have fallen victim to a plethora of threats over the years, ranging from poaching and illegal trading to disease transmission and habitat loss stemming from development and war. In many cases, however, poached gorillas are not intentionally killed and are instead caught in traps intended for other animals.
Specimens are currently dependent on conservation efforts for survival, and these efforts are mostly hybridized of anti-poaching protocol and community-based conservation management rooted in biodiversity protection.
Usually regarded as the rarest marine mammal in the world, the vaquita is an incredibly endangered cetacean. This small porpoise-like species (its name translates to “little pig” in Spanish) has sadly witnessed a rapid decline in numbers in recent decades; its population was estimated at around 600 in 1997, below 100 in 2014, and approximately 60 in 2016. Now, drastic action will be needed to ensure the species’s survival. These falling figures are mostly attributed to bycatching, or unintentional catching in nets intended for other organisms. These nets are commonly used to capture totoaba, another critically endangered marine species, for black market trading.
To conserve the vaquita, several protective housing, breeding, and anti-poaching programs have been established — an unprecedented collective initiative for marine mammals. Most recently, in December 2017, The US, Mexico, and China agreed to emphasize illegal trading of totoaba parts, which should subsequently reduce the amount of vaquitas captured.