5 Most Endangered Animals
The most critically endangered species on our list of the ten most critically endangered animals is the ivory-billed woodpecker, which lives—or lived—in the Southeastern part of the US as well as Cuba. This huge woodpecker was considered extinct until 2004, when a handful of tantalizing reports of sightings in Arkansas and Florida began to trickle in. However, definitive proof for the ivory-bill’s continued existence has remained elusive, and if a population does exist, it is likely to be tiny and extremely vulnerable. The ivory-billed woodpecker owes its near- or complete extinction to habitat loss (logging) as well as over-exploitation by humans, who hunted it for its feathers.
2. AMUR LEOPARD
The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a very rare leopard subspecies that lives only in the remote and snowy northern forests of eastern Russian’s Primorye region. Its former range included Korea and northern China, but the Amur leopard is now extinct in those countries. A 2007 census counted only 14-20 adult Amur leopards and 5-6 cubs. Threats facing the species include habitat loss due to logging, road building and encroaching civilization, poaching (illegal hunting) and global climate change.
3. JAVAN RHINOCEROS
The Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is the most endangered of the world’s five rhinoceros species, with an estimated 40-60 animals remaining on the western tip of the Island of Java (Indonesia) in Ujung Kulon National Park. The last member of another tiny population in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park was killed by poachers in 2011. The water- and swamp-loving Javan rhinoceros formerly ranged throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia, but has been hunted to near-extinction for its horn, which is used to make Asian folk medicines. Although it is now protected, it may not have a large-enough breeding population to prevent the species from going extinct.
4. GREATER BAMBOO LEMUR
The Island of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa, is home to dozens of species of lemurs—and almost all of them are disappearing very quickly due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. But the most critically endangered of all of Madagascar’s lemurs is the greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), also known as the broad-nosed gentle lemur. Fewer than 100 greater bamboo lemurs remain in the island’s southeastern and south-central forests, and they continue to be threatened by illegal hunting as well as habitat loss due to logging and the burning of forests for agricultural purposes.
5. NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE
The most endangered of all the world’s whale species, the northern right whale (Eubalena glacialis) numbers around 350 individuals that travel the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the US. During the whaling days of the 19th century, the right whale got its name because whalers considered it the “right” whale to kill, as it not only was full of valuable whale oil, but it floated after it was dead, which made it easy to handle and process. As a result, it was driven to near extinction. Although the right whale is now protected, its small remnant population continues to suffer losses due to entanglements in commercial fishing gear: Whales drown after becoming wrapped in nets, lines and other equipment. Global climate change, which can affect the availability of the tiny crustaceans on which right whales feed, may prove to be another serious threat to their recovery.