These Adorable Photos of Endangered Species Will Make You Want to Save Them All
The animal kingdom is in crisis. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, currently there are at least 16,306 animal and plant species on earth threatened with extinction. Many of these animals are in danger because of the spread of human civilization that is destroying their natural habitats, some of them are poached for their coats or ivory, and others’ homes are threatened by climate change.
The following 10 animals are currently on the endangered species list—and one look at their beautiful faces will make you want to help get them off that list. For more ideas on how you can help save them and their natural habitats, follow our easy tips for making a difference in the world.
These large, beautiful creatures spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, and more than half that time is spent hunting, says the World Wildlife Fund. The problem? Their ice home is melting—fast. According to the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, there is an estimated high risk of population decline in the future due to climate change and the melting of the ice on which the polar bears live. There are currently an estimated 22,000-31,000 wild polar bears alive today.
There are only about 5,000 black rhinos left on earth, earning these giant animals the "critically endangered" designation by the World Wildlife Fund. One of the biggest threats to their numbers is poachers who kill them and sell their horns on the black market. There is some hope for this species: Last century, the population was lower—below 3,000—but thanks to conservation efforts the population is beginning to bounce back.
This subspecies of tiger used to be classified as Indochinese tigers, until DNA testing in 2004 set them apart from the other subspecies. There are believed to be only 250-340 left in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their Latin name Panthera tigris jacksoni is a nod to tiger conservationist Peter Jackson. Here, two tiger cubs in captivity play together as their mom rests in the background.
You've probably seen these sweet little animals at your local zoo, hiding and climbing in the trees. The majority of their natural habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas, where they spend most of the time in the trees, thanks to long tails that help with balance. Unfortunately, there are fewer than 10,000 red pandas left in the world, as they are frequently killed for their distinctive red coats.
Sri Lankan Elephant
Many different types of elephants in the world are endangered, including the largest Asian subspecies, the Sri Lankan elephant. Their natural habitats are shrinking due to construction and deforestation. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their population has fallen almost 65% since the beginning of the 19th century, and there are currently only 2,500-4,000 left in the world. These animals are a huge target for poachers who want to sell their ivory tusks, but thankfully the Sri Lankan government has made steps to protect the animal, threatening poachers with the death penalty.
Here, a mom snow leopard rests with her three cubs. These large cats live in some of the coldest mountain ranges on earth, thanks to their powerful bodies and warm coats. Today, there are only about 4,000-6,000 left on earth, with their biggest threats being human hunters and habitat loss due to climate change.
The Amur leopard is one of the most at-risk animals on this list, with a total remaining population at only around 84 cats. These beautiful animals are hunted for their furs, which can be sold for up to $1,000 a pelt. Other threats include prey scarcity due to human expansion and habitat destruction in their native southeastern Russia and northeastern China. Local governments and organizations are putting protections in place to keep this unique species from extinction.
The Sumatran orangutan has a very limited habitat, as the species very rarely touches the ground. Considered a critically endangered species by the World Wildlife Fund, there are only around 14,000 remaining in the world, and those are threatened by extreme habitat loss, hunting, and an illegal pet trade. Because females only give birth once every eight or nine years, population growth is very slow.
These parent and baby mountain gorillas are considered critically endangered by the WWF—there are only around 880 of them left on earth. Local conservation efforts are underway to save them in the face of possible extinction due to poaching and human presence in their territory. Unlike other animals, Gorillas are extremely vulnerable to human diseases, so the encroaching construction can be disastrous to their populations.
The Galápagos penguin is the only penguin found north of the equator, and today there are fewer than 2,000 left on earth. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their major threats are mostly human-created, including pollution in their natural habitats, climate change, and being caught in fishing nets intended for other sea creatures.