20 Animals You Didn't Know Are Going Extinct

Learn about some of the incredible animals that are at risk of disappearing.

Two Nubian giraffes standing in a field of acacia trees.

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

The statistics of the biodiversity crisis are staggering. Some scientists estimate that one-third of all plant and animal species could be extinct by the year 2070. You are probably familiar with the threats to animals like polar bears and Bengal tigers, but the rate of extinction is rising so rapidly that there are many animals you might not realize are at risk.

Here are 20 incredible and endangered animals that are currently at risk of extinction.

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A zebra standing in an open pasture.

Brad / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

An icon of the African plains and a necessity in any wildlife documentary, the zebra is actually in trouble. Specifically, it's the Grevy's zebra that is endangered. There are several species of zebras in Africa, including the plains zebra, the mountain zebra, and the grevy's zebra. Among them, the mountain zebra is considered vulnerable and the plains zebra is near threatened, but the grevy's zebra is in dire straits — fewer than 2,000 individuals are left in the wild.

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A monograph of two Bornean peacock-pheasants, one male, with vivid green coloring, and one female, with more subtle brown coloration.

George Edward Lodge / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain 

We wouldn't think of peacocks as endangered, considering you can find them in any wildlife park, petting zoo, and even the occasional farm. But there are subspecies of this flamboyant bird that are in danger of disappearing, including the Bornean peacock-pheasant (pictured in the monograph above) and the Hainan peacock-pheasant from the island of Hainan, China. For both species, habitat loss is a major factor in their decline. Only about 600 to 1,700 Bornean peacock-pheasants and between 250 and 1,000 Hainan peacock-pheasants are left in the world.

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A Nubian giraffe leaning over and drinking water.

Charlotte Bleijenberg / Getty Images

Giraffes are practically part of the landscape of Africa, standing tree-like in the grasslands. Most giraffe species are not a huge concern to conservationists, yet the nominate subspecies of the Northern giraffe, the nubian giraffe, is critically endangered. It has experienced a 95% population decline over 30 years. The total population is estimated to be at 650, primarily in Ethiopia and South Sudan.

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A blue-capped hummingbird with bright emerald feathers sitting on a small twig.

Jerry Oldenettel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

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 to 1,700 mature individuals remaining; the mangrove hummingbird, which was discovered in 2005 and lives along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica; and the chestnut-bellied hummingbird, a near-threatened species found in Colombia with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 individuals left.

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A brown Przewalski's horse standing on a grassy hill in Hustain Nuruu National Park.

Aloxe / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

It may come as a surprise that horses are endangered — specifically, the Przewalski's Horse. Closely related to but genetically unique from its domestic cousins, this wild horse is endangered. It was listed as extinct in 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 178 mature horses living in the wild with more individuals in captive breeding programs and zoos. A major threat to the species is a loss of genetic diversity and, as a result, disease.

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Howler Monkeys

A Yucatan black howler monkey sits eating leaves with his tail wrapped around a tree.

Ruestz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

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 Yucatan black howler monkey is endangered and is expected to decline by up to 60% over the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the Maranhao red-handed howler monkey is also endangered, with approximately 250 to 2,500 mature individuals remaining in the wild.

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Fruit Bats

A tree full of roosting flying foxes hanging upside down on the brances.

79Photography / Getty Images

Some bat species are having trouble with white nose syndrome, including fruit bats. Turns out, a whole slew of species of fruit bat are endangered, including the golden-capped fruit bat (also known as the giant golden-crowned flying fox), with an estimated 10,000 individuals remaining; the Salim Ali's fruit bat, with possibly fewer than 400 left; and the Sao Tomé collared fruit bat, which is rare and has an unknown population. Most of the decrease in fruit bat population is due to hunting, habitat loss, and disturbances to roost sites.

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Ground Squirrels

A Nelson's antelope squirrel with a white bushy tail sits in the desert grassland of the San Joaquin Valley.

Greg Schechter / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

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 out of luck. Thanks to agricultural development, urbanization, and a whole lot of rodenticide, California's San Joaquin antelope ground squirrel (also known as the Nelson’s antelope squirrel), with only 20% of its former range, has an unknown but decreasing population.

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Ganges river dolphin and a boat carrying people crossing Ganges river

Alatom / Getty Images

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 3,500 left, while there are an estimated 1,200 to 1,800 Indus River Dolphins remaining.

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Galapagos Penguins

A pair of Galapagos penguins stand on a rocky overlook on a day with a beautiful blue sky.

Gareth Codd / Getty Images

The Galapagos penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, and it is also the one that lives the farthest north. This aquatic bird is endangered, with a population of 1,200 and decreasing. The Galapagos penguin lives 20 years on average and mates for life. Contamination from oil spills, hunting, fishing, and non-native predators are all threats to it.

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A grey Nelson's spiny pocket mouse sitting on a rock surrounded by pine needles.

abrahambio / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Even mice are on the Endangered Species List. Quite a few have the dubious honor, including Nelson’s spiny pocket mouse (pictured) and the salt-marsh harvest mouse. The Nelson’s spiny pocket mouse is endangered due to loss of habitat in Mexico and Guatemala, where the mouse is also impacted by floods and landslides. Found in the salt marshes bordering San Francisco Bay, the salt-marsh harvest mouse is impacted by habitat loss as a result of residential and commercial development, dam and water management systems, and invasive plant species.

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A bright yellow sun parakeet sitting on a branch with large green leaves.

Mark Newman / Getty Images

Several gorgeous species of this popular house pet are on the brink of extinction in no small part because of their popularity as house pets. Populations of the sun parakeet, estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,500 individuals, have declined due to trapping for the cage-bird trade as well the diminishing quality of their habitat. Though the total population is not known, the reasons for population decline are similar for the grey-cheeked parakeet of Ecuador and Peru.

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A white-clawed crayfish standing on a pile of gray and white rocks.

Mike Powles / Getty Images

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. This native Alabama crayfish is threatened by pollution of the freshwater aquifer and its close proximity to roads and urban development.

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A Himalayan musk deer on a rocky mountainside covered by brown and gray scrub vegetation..

outcast85 / Getty Images

Many species of tiny musk deer are so diminutive they look like the prehistoric animals that were the first mammals to arrive on the planet. The species includes the Himalayan musk deer (pictured above), the black musk deer, the Kashmir musk deer, and the Chinese forest musk deer, among others. These deer are hunted primarily for their musk glands, which are used in traditional East Asian medicines and cosmetics.

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Water Buffalo

A bull water buffalo half submerged in water with its curved horns, eyes, and nose above water.

Steve Garvie / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

The water buffalo is a surprise for this list as we think of it as a domesticated 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 habitat loss, hunting, and disease from domestic livestock.

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A pair of Egyptian vultures, with their notable orange beaks and tufted head feathers standing in a grassy field.

J.M. Garg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Vultures aren't usually considered the most attractive of birds, but the Egyptian vulture is a notable exception. The striking bird is found in Europe, Africa, and India, but rapid and severe declines in the Indian populations as well as a long-term decline in the European populations put the population at around 12,000 to 38,000 mature individuals. One of the threats to Egyptian vultures is the drug diclofenac, which is used as a painkiller for livestock. The vultures, who feed on animal carcasses, are killed from consuming animals that were treated with the drug. As a result, some countries have banned the use of diclofenac.

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A pair of pygmy hippos rubbing their heads together near a large tree.

Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Pygmy hippopotamus are the diminutive relatives of the Hippopotamus amphibius. The two do not share a habitat, however, as the pygmy hippo is only found in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and the Guinea regions of West Africa. While the pygmy hippopotamus population in the wild is unknown, the total number of mature individuals is estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,500. Deforestation is the greatest threat to the pygmy hippo, but this animal is also hunted for meat.

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Sea Lions

A colony of Steller sea lions congregate near the water's edge.

Yummifruitbat / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

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 behind walruses and two types of elephant seals, has a global population of around 81,300 animals. An improvement in population for the two subspecies considered together, the western Steller sea lion and the Loughlin’s Steller sea lion, has improved the Steller sea lion's status from endangered to near threatened. The western Steller sea lion population has continued to decrease due to disease and killing by fishermen, while the Loughlin’s Steller sea lion population is trending upward.

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Two Speke's gazelles with horns hooked together.

Sanjay Acharya / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

As with zebras, no documentary about the African savanna is complete without a few gazelles being caught by lions or cheetahs. But feline predators are not the only threat to a number of gazelle species. The cuvier's gazelle of northwest Africa is considered vulnerable with an estimated population of 2,300 to 4,500 individuals, while the slender-horned gazelle of the Sahara has only around 300 to 600 mature individuals remaining. The speke's gazelle (pictured above) from the Horn of Africa is considered possibly extinct in Ethiopia, while remaining populations in Somalia, thought to be in the tens of thousands, face severe pressure from hunting and habitat loss.

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A San Cristobal mockingbird stands near a stand of tall green trees.

Vladislav T. Jirouse / Shutterstock

While mockingbirds are fairly common in many parts of the world, unfortunately, at least one species, the San Cristobal mockingbird, is endangered. Endemic to the island of San Cristóbal in the central Galápagos islands, there are only around 5,300 mature individuals remaining. Residential and commercial development, invasive species and disease, and climate change and weather extremes have all contributed to this bird's decreasing population.

View Article Sources
  1. Román Palacios, Cristian, and John J. Wiens. “Recent Responses to Climate Change Reveal the Drivers of Species Extinction and Survival.” PNAS, vol. 117, no. 8, 10 Feb. 2020, pp. 4211–4217., doi:10.1073/pnas.1913007117