1. Bengal tiger
Bengal tigers are found primarily in India, with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. At nearly 10 feet tall when standing on its hind legs, and weighing up to 550lbs, the Bengal is one of the largest “big cats”.
The main threat to the Bengal is the illegal wildlife trade. Despite the ban on tiger trade in 1993, demand for tigers as status symbols, decorative items, and folk cures has increased dramatically, leading to a new poaching crisis. Read more here.
Mountain gorillas live in the Congo Basin at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. The main threat to them is loss of habitat, in part due to the illegal multi-million-dollar charcoal trade. The species is listed as critically endangered.
War in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has caused refugees to flee to the mountains, destroying gorilla habitat. Though there is little direct poaching, gorillas have been killed by traps set for other prey. Read more here.
3. Amur leopard
Native to far east Russia, Amur leopards can run at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, and can leap more than 19 feet horizontally and up to 10 feet vertically.
The main threat to Amur leopards is poaching, largely for their beautiful, spotted fur. With only 30 individuals remaining in the wild, they are listed as critically endangered. Read more here.
The fate of the orangutan is directly linked to deforestation in its native lands of Sumatra and Borneo. Much of this is done to make way for palm trees to provide cheap palm oil for use in processed foods. Orangutans are listed as critically endangered.
Forests are cleared with fire, which the slow-moving apes aren’t able to escape. Thousands of orangutans are thought to have burned to death as a result. Read more here.
5. Red panda
Slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body, the red panda is a very skillful and acrobatic animal that predominantly stays in trees. Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the eastern Himalayas.
The main threat to red pandas, which are classified as vulnerable, is being caught in traps set for other animals. Read more here.
6. Snow leopard
The snow leopard’s powerful build allows it to scale great steep slopes with ease, and to leap six times the length of its body.
Loss of habitat as a result of climate change is the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. Up to 30% of the snow leopard habitat in their native Himalayas is under threat. They are listed as endangered. Read more here.
Chimps, which are native to the forests of central Africa, are highly social animals, and our closest cousins – we share about 98% of our genes with them. Due to population decline, they are classified as endangered.
In recent years poaching has become commercialised to satisfy the appetites of wealthy urban residents. Infant chimpanzees are frequently taken alive and sold in cities as pets. Read more here.
8. Sea lion
The sea lion population has dropped from around 300,000 in 1980 to fewer than 100,000, and the number is still dropping. They are classified as endangered.
Vulnerable to the effects of climate change on ocean currents, which impacts the abundance of fish, they are also victims of bycatch in commercial fishing. Read more here.
9. Giant panda
The rarest members of the bear family, pandas live mainly in bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. As of 2004 their population was under 1,600 individuals. They are listed as endangered.
Hunting remains an ever-present threat. Poaching the animals for their fur has declined due to strict laws, but hunters seeking other animals in panda habitats continue to kill pandas accidentally. Read more here.
Wild bonobos can only be found in forests south of the Congo river in the DRC. Like the chimpanzee, bonobos share about 98% of their DNA with humans. And like the chimpanzee, they are classified as endangered.
Civil unrest in the region around the bonobo’s home territory has allowed gangs of poachers to invade Salonga National Park, one of few protected areas where the animal is protected. Read more here.
11. African elephant
The African elephant is the largest animal walking the earth, and its herds wander through 37 countries in Africa. Though the population seems large, African elephants are listed as vulnerable due to the massive threat of the illegal ivory trade.
Despite a global ban on ivory sales since 1990, tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year to meet a growing demand for ivory in east Asia. 2011 saw the highest volume of illegal ivory seized since global records began. Read more here.
12. Green turtle
The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore. An estimated 40,000 females nest annually in the largest populations of Costa Rica and Australia (the amount of males is uncertain). They are classified as endangered.
Tens of thousands of green turtles are harvested every year for human consumption, particularly in parts of Asia and the western Pacific. They are also at risk from commercial fishing operations, often ending up as bycatch. Read more here.
13. Polar bear
Polar bears inhabit the sea ice of the Arctic ocean and spend over 50% of their time hunting, though their hunts are successful less than 2% of the time.
Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears are listed as a threatened species in the US and are classified as vulnerable by the WWF. Read more here.
14. Bluefin tuna
Bluefin are the largest tuna and can live up to 40 years. The Atlantic bluefin is a highly sought-after delicacy for sushi and sashimi in Asia.
Due to demand driven by the high-end sushi market, bluefin tuna populations have declined severely from overfishing and illegal fishing over the past few decades, and they are classified as endangered. Read more here.
15. Giant tortoise
Native to the Galápagos islands, the giant tortoise was enjoyed as a delicacy by sailors for hundreds of years, leading to critical population levels.
Though numbers have since stabilised, the giant tortoise is listed as vulnerable due to threats by introduced species to the islands, such as dogs and cats, which prey on young tortoises, and cattle, which compete for grazing vegetation. Read more here.
Like Dumbo, the pygmy elephants of Borneo are baby-faced, with oversized ears, plump bellies, and tails so long they sometimes drag on the ground as they walk.
The primary threat to these elephants is the loss of continuous forests. Logging, expanding agriculture, and palm oil plantations destroying their habitat mean the pygmy elephant is classified as vulnerable. Read more here.
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