When it comes to the Endangered Species List, some animals stand out as celebrities: polar bears, giant pandas, rhinos, snow leopards... But sadly, the list is so extensive that there are many species you may never have suspected are endangered. Here are twenty of them.
An icon of the African plains and a necessity in any wildlife documentary about lions going a' huntin', the zebra is actually in trouble. Well, really, it's the Grevy's zebra. There are several species of zebra in Africa, including the Plains zebra, Mountain zebra and the Grevy's zebra. Among them, the Mountain zebra is listed as vulnerable but the Grevy's is in dire straights with only about 2,500 individuals left in the wild.
We wouldn't think of peacocks as endangered, considering you can find them in any wildlife park, petting zoo and even random farms across the country. But there are subspecies of this flamboyant bird that are in danger of disappearing, including the Bornean Peacock Pheasant pictured above and the Hainan Peacock Pheasant of the island Hainan, China. For both species, habitat loss is a major factor for their decline. Only about 600-1,700 Bornean Peacock Pheasants and around 350-1,500 Hainan Peacock Pheasants left in the world.
Giraffes are practically part of the landscape of Africa, standing tree-like in the grasslands. Most giraffe species are of no concern to conservationists, yet a sub-species (or, as some researchers propose a separate species), the Rothschild giraffe, a.k.a. Baringo Giraffe or Ugandan Giraffe, is endangered. Those living in the wild are found in protected areas in Kenya and Uganda, while about 450 individuals are found in zoos around the world.
Though you may see a flock around that sugar-water feeder you set out, quite a few hummingbird species are actually listed as endangered by IUCN. Some of these species include the Oaxaca Hummingbird pictured above, with around 600-1,700 mature individuals left; Mangrove hummingbird, which was only discovered in 2005 and lives along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica; and the Chestnut-billed hummingbird, a species found in Colombia with only about 600-1,700 individuals left.
Horses?!? Yep, horses are endangered. Specifically, the Przewalski's Horse. Closely related to but genetically unique from its domestic cousins, this wild horse is critically endangered. It was listed as extinct from the wild from the 1960s to 1996 when one surviving individual was found in the wild and other individuals were reintroduced. Currently, there are about 50 mature horses living in the wild with more individuals in captive breeding programs and zoos. That's not very many and a major threat to the species is a loss of genetic diversity and thus disease.
Howler monkeys are so common to Central and South America that it's hard to think there is any risk for them. But with habitat loss and capture or predation by humans, there is indeed a problem for several species. The Guatemalan Black Howler Monkey is endangered and is expected to decline by up to 60% over the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the Red-handed Howling Monkey is critically endangered with less than 2,500 mature individuals remaining in the wild.
Sure, some bat species are having trouble what with that awful white nose syndrome spreading, but fruit bats? Turns out, a whole slew of species of fruit bat are endangered, some of which include the Golden-capped Fruit Bat (around 10,000 individuals left), the Salim Ali's Fruit Bat (possibly as few as 250-350 left), the Sao Tomé Collared Fruit Bat (population unknown but naturally rare), and the Small-toothed Fruit Bat (only seven specimens found).
Rodents are usually a surprise for the Endangered Species list since they tend to be great at adapting and especially skilled at reproducing. But if they don't have a place to live, they're flat out of luck. Thanks to agriculture and a whole lot of rodenticide, the San Joaquin Antelope Ground Squirrel of California has less than 20% of its former range and an estimated 124,000-413,000 individuals left.
Even the most charismatic of animals isn't off the chopping block. The South Asian River Dolphin has two subspecies based on the river systems in which they are found, the Ganges River Dolphin and the Indus River Dolphin. Though a strong effort has been made to research and conserve the species, there is still relatively little known about them. Of the Ganges River Dolphins, there are about 1,200–1,800 left, while there are an estimated 965 Indus River Dolphins left.
They're in every garden, right? Well, turns out there is an interesting species of wolf spider that's not in any garden. Called the Kaua'i Cave Wolf Spider or the No-eyed Big-eyed Wolf Spider (huh??), this species is native to this island alone, lives in just a handful of caves, and is the only species of wolf spider known to be eyeless. Discovered in 1971, the species was placed on the list of endangered species in 2000.
No! Not parakeets! There are gorgeous species of this popular house pet on the brink of extinction in no small part because of their popularity as house pets. Populations of the Sun Parakeet and the Gray-cheeked Parakeet have declined rapidly because of trapping for the cagebird trade. Habitat loss is also a factor, as with the Soccorro Parakeet , a species for which sheep grazing and other habitat degradation has made the population decline to possibly as few as 250 mature adults.
Usually we think of crayfish as a common Southern food pulled from rivers. However a surprising number of crayfish species are on the decline. Those on the Endangered Species list include the White-clawed Crayfish (pictured above), the Phantom Cave Crayfish, the Slenderclaw crayfish, the Giant Freshwater Crayfish and the aptly named Sweet Home Alabama crayfish of Marshall county, Alabama. If that last one doesn't have you worried about the future of crayfish cook-offs, we don't know what will!
Many species of tiny musk deer, so diminutive they look like the prehistoric animals that were the first mammals to arrive on the planet. The species include the Himalayan Muskdeer, the Black Muskdeer (pictured above), the Kashmir Muskdeer, and Chinese Forest Musk Deer among others.
The water buffalo is a surprise for this list as we think of it as a domesticaed animal, but like horses, it's the wild cousins of the domesticated beasts that are at risk. There are as few as 2,500 mature individuals left and researchers estimate the species has experienced a population decline of at least 50% over the last three generations. The major threats include interbreeding with feral and domestic buffalo, as well as hunting and habitat loss.
Vultures aren't usually the most attractive of birds, but the Egyptian Vulture, is a notable exception. The striking bird is found in Europe, Africa and India, however rapid and severe declines in the Indian populations as well as long-term decline in the European populations put the species at around 13,000-41,000 mature individuals.
No, not the big, mean hippos famed for killing around 2,900 people a year. It's their mini cousins on the Endangered Species list, the Pygmy hippo. These round and adorable hippos are nocturnal and not much is known about them because of their secretive ways. The last population estimate in 1990 put the species at 3,000 individuals and habitat loss since then suggests that even this estimate was (and is) too high. Meanwhile, there are about 303 animals in captivity.
Pinnipeds are geniuses in the marine world, but sadly their smarts can't keep them off the Endangered Species list.
The Steller Sea Lion, the fourth largest pinniped, has a global population of around 105,800-117,800 animals, but troubling declines especially in the Gulf of Alaska has conservationists concerned. The Australian Sealion is also in trouble with an estimated population of only 13,790 individuals.
As with zebras, no documentary about the African savanna is complete without some gazelles being caught by lions or cheetahs. But that doesn't mean several species are in more trouble than any number of feline predators could pose. The Cuvier's Gazelle of north-west Africa is estimated at just 1,750 – 2,950 individuals. Meanwhile the Slender-horned Gazelle of the Sahara has only around 250 mature individuals left. The Speke's Gazelle (pictured above) from the Horn of Africa now extinct in Ethiopia and remaining populations in Somalia are thought to be in the tens of thousands but they face severe pressure from hunting and habitat loss.
They may annoy you by mimicking a car alarm early in the morning, but mockingbirds are amazing creatures. Unfortunately, at least one species, the San Cristobal Mockingbird, endemic to the island of San Cristóbal in the central Galápagos islands, is endangered. There are only around 5,300 mature individuals left.
Nothing on Earth exists without a reason, without a purpose. Mother Nature is excellent at getting rid of things that don't fill a function and thus what remains here is actually important -- whether or not humans recognize that importance. Some species are on their way out through natural selection, but others (possibly even most?) are being forced out by factors brought on by we humans. Whether or not a species is beautiful, valuable to an economy, important to science or any other reason, it deserves recognition for its role in an ecosystem and effort put into conserving it in the wild. It's not just the species making the news that need help -- it's also some that would surprise you.