Throughout the centuries, many different animals have become extinct. From the dinosaurs in prehistoric times to the dodo bird in the 17th century, once a species of animal is gone, it’s gone forever. As people have become more aware of our impact on the planet, we have also taken notice of various species of animals whose numbers seem to be dwindling. These animals are placed on the endangered species list, and special steps are taken to ensure their populations stop dropping but instead begin to increase.
Many endangered species of animals can be found on the land in various areas of the Earth. In North America, there are several big cats on the endangered species list, including cougars, jaguars, and ocelots. One species of cougar, the Florida panther, only has an estimated 30-50 animals remaining in the wild. The red wolf are also listed, and this species was actually declared extinct in 1980. Now, there are approximately 200 red wolves in the wild, but the red wolf has a long way to go before it can be removed from the endangered list.
The list of endangered species in Central America is largely comprised of monkeys. Geoffroy’s spider monkey, the mantled howler monkey, and the red-backed squirrel monkey are all on the endangered list. There are thought to be fewer than 4000 red-backed squirrel monkeys in the wild today.
South American endangered species include several species of otter, such as the giant otter, long-tailed otter, and marine otter. The giant otter currently numbers only 2000-5000 in the wild, and the marine otter is thought to number only 1000 or even fewer in the wild.
European endangered species include a few sheep-like animals. The apennine chamois, argali, and the saiga antelope are among these animals. The saiga antelope population has declined dramatically in the past 20 years. They once numbered in the millions, but now there are fewer than 50,000 in the wild today.
Asian and Middle Eastern species on the endangered list include such popular zoo animals as the Asian elephant, Bornean orangutan, and the leopard. There are fewer than 50,000 Bornean orangutans in the wild, and only 34,000-54,000 Asian elephants.
There are also some very well-known species on the endangered list from the continent of Africa. These include the chimpanzee, leopard, and mountain zebra. Of these species, the mountain zebra is the most endangered, with a population of only about 7600 between the two subspecies.
Australian endangered species include several marsupials, such as the banded hare wallaby, easteran jarboa marsupial, and Tasmanian forester kangaroo. The banded hare wallaby may be the most endangered of the three, but the most recent population estimate for this species was in 1992. At that time, there were only about 9700 remaining.
Although the ocean is home to some of the world’s largest animals, that does not mean these animals can not be in danger of becoming extinct. Several species of whales, including the blue whale, gray whale, and humpback whale, are on the endangered species list. The blue whale is the largest of these, but only numbers about 2500 in the wild currently.
There are many reasons for animals to end up on the endangered species list, most of which are caused by humans. Deforestation, water pollution, and poaching are major threats to many of these species. Hunting and fishing done by humans also endanger species, as some animals are killed because they are seen as competition for the hunters. Other animals may become caught in traps or nets set by hunters and fishermen, or may succumb to water pollution caused by sportsmen or industry.
Many endangered species are protected by law in the countries they occupy, or are protected by being moved to specially designated land. Despite our best efforts, these species may become extinct, but if humans try to protect animals as much as possible, many of these species will live on for future generations of people to get to see and love.