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17 Critically Endangered Species (2022)

By Dr. Chris Drew, PhD in Education

critically endangered species list

In 2022, there are 37,400 species threatened with extinction, with 3,483 classified as critically endangered[source]. These animals all have a 50% probability of going extinct within 10 years or 3 generations.

Human-caused reasons for species decline include over-hunting, deforestation, agriculture expansion, urbanization, mining, construction of road and rail corridors, introduction of invasive species, and human induced climate change.

Among the most critically endangered species on this year’s official IUCN Red List are the Orangutan, Javan Rhinocerus, Hawksbill Turtle, and the Eastern Lowland Gorilla.

endangered species infographic

List of Critically Endangered Species in 2022

1. Orangutans

Orangutans
Scientific NamePongo
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeRemote Forests in Indonesia, Borneo, and Malaysia
Estimated Population (2022)120,000
Key ThreatsBatang Toru hydropower project, Exotic pet trade

About

The heart-warmingly playful orangutan can be found in Indonesia, Borneo, and Malaysia. This gentle creature has had its habitat encroached upon by human activities in recent decades, while climate change has also posed a growing threat. Its population is in severe decline despite extensive efforts to protect it.

There are three species of Orangutan – the Sumerian, Bornean, and Tapanuli Orangutans. All three are considered to be critically endangered. Across all three species, there are estimated to be less than 120,000 Orangutans left in the world[source]:

  • Tapanuli Orangutan (P. tapanuliensis) Fewer than 800
  • Sumatran Orangutan (P. abelii) About 13,500
  • Bornean Orangutan (P. pygmaeus) Between 55,000 and 105,000

Considering that in 1976, there were over 280,000 Bornean Orangutans alone[source], this population decline is a serious concern.

Orangutan Range

Orangutan Range

Threats

The Batang Toru hydropower project is one of the Orangutan’s greatest threats.

This power plant is being built in the heart of the Tapanuli Orangutan’s only habitat. The enormous project will deliver reliable power to the North Sumatran province, but has an huge footprint. The project requires the redirection of a river and construction of a large man-made dam.

This project is expected to split the Orangutan’s population of just 800 into three smaller groups which will be unable to sustain themselves due to forced inbreeding[source].

Conservation Efforts

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme[source] is the preeminent NGO working to protect Orangutans.

The organization rescues and confiscates Orangutans illegally held as pets, rehabilitates them, and reintroduces them to the wild. They release them into two protected habitats in areas where the Orangutans once lived but are no longer found.

The intention of the project is to create a new genetically viable population that can remain active, even if other wild populations die out. To achieve this, they need as much genetic diversity in the new population as possible.

Other NGOs, such as The Orangutan Project, focus on protecting existing forests that are not currently protected. Up to 80% of Orangutan territory is unprotected. This organization monitors illegal activities, takes legal action where it can, and lobbies for forest protection. Individuals can also ‘adopt an orangutan’ through The Orangutan Project.

2. Hawksbill Turtles

Hawksbill
Scientific NameEretmochelys imbricata
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeTropics and Subtropics
Estimated Population (2022)15,000 to 23,000 nesting females
Key ThreatsIllegal Turtle Shell Trade

About

The iconic Hawksbill Turtle has seen 84% of its population decline within three generations. Estimates place the current population at 15,000 to 23,000 nesting females[source].

Hawksbill turtles roam all of the world’s tropics and subtropics. You can find them anywhere from Yemen to Mexico to Vietnam. Major populations are found in North-Eastern Australia, the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, and on Cuba’s coastlines.

Hawksbill Turtle Range

hawksbill turtle range

Threats

The turtle shell trade is a major existential threat to the Hawksbill turtle.

The trade of turtle shells was made illegal in 1977 when turtle shells were added as a banned product to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)[source]. However, Japan carved out an exception and continued to hunt Hawksbill turtles up until 1993. Cuba followed Japan’s lead and imposed a moratorium on the hunting of turtle shells in 2008[source].

Unfortunately, huge stockpiles of Hawksbill shells have allowed the illegal trade to continue. It is hard to tell the difference between stockpiled shells and newly hunted shells, making it harder to police poaching. The illegal trade is most visible in Nicaragua and Colombia[source] where unwitting tourists – often from the United States – buy the beautiful jewelry made from the shells and bring them back to America.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts fit into two camps. The first is education of tourists and the second is habitat regeneration.

Tourist education is most prominently promoted through the Too Rare to Wear campaign. They primarily aim to educate tourists to Central and South America about buying ethically sourced jewelry.

The second conservation effort is habitat regeneration. While there is substantial evidence of steep overall population decline, conservation efforts have seen populations stabilize in some areas[source]. Major conservation efforts are concentrated in Florida, Thailand, and Queensland Australia [source]. Conservation is focused on reducing populations of invasive predators such as feral pigs from around nesting habitats and cleaning the oceans of deadly plastic waste.

3. Gorillas

Mountain Gorilla
Scientific NameGorilla gorilla, Gorilla beringei
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeSub-Saharan Africa
Estimated Population (2022)Less than 320,000
Key ThreatsPoachers, Mining, and Road Construction

About

The Eastern Lowlands, Western Lowlands, and Cross River Gorillas are all critically endangered with extremely low and declining wild populations.

There are estimated to be 2,600 Eastern Lowlands Gorillas and 316,000 Western Lowlands Gorillas. The Cross River Gorilla is a sub-species of the Western Lowlands Gorilla with a population estimated at 250-300.

The Mountain Gorilla, a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, has a population of around 1,000, which has risen from 600 in 2015. The rising population has justified placing the Mountain Gorilla in the ‘endangered’ rather than ‘critically endangered’ category.

All Gorillas are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, including in nations such as Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Gorilla Range

gorilla range

Threats

Gorillas are threatened by poachers, mining, and new road construction.

New roads, constructed to build new mines, fragment gorilla habitats. They also give poachers easier access to deeper into Gorilla territory.

Poachers hunt gorillas for bushmeat as well as their use in traditional medicines. Unfortunately, gorillas have a low reproduction rate. A mother has just one baby every four to six years[source]. This means it doesn’t require many poachers to cause serious damage to the Gorilla population[source].

Conservation Efforts

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), established in 1979, is the premier conservation program for protecting Gorillas and their habitats[source].

Interestingly, a key focus of conservation efforts is to support ethical tourism. When people go to visit the Gorillas, the tourism money is used to protect the Gorillas and support local communities, which decreases the temptation to hunt these great creatures.

Ethical tourism also aims to ensure the Gorillas are protected from human diseases such as influenza, which can be spread to the great apes during human contact.

4. Rhinos

White Rhino
Scientific NamesRhinoceros sondaicus, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, Diceros bicornis
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeEastern Africa, Southern Africa, South-East Asia
Estimated Population (2022)Less than 30,000
Key ThreatsPoachers, Forest Fires, and Habitat Destruction

About

There are three of five species of Rhinoceros who are critically endangered. These are the Black Rhino, Javan Rhinoceros, and Sumatran Rhinoceros. The White Rhino is ‘near threatened’ and the Greater One-Horned Rhino is ‘vulnerable’.

Across these populations, the Sumatran Rhinoceros is in extreme danger, with many remaining pockets of population being too small to be considered viable in the long-term.

There are less than 80 Sumatran Rhinos left in the world, although it is very difficult to accurately assess the population due to the animals’ elusive nature. The largest pocket is thought to be a group of 12-33 Sumatran Rhinos in Way Kambas, Indonesia[source].

The estimated species populations in 2022 are as follows:

  • Black Rhino: 5,366 – 5,627
  • Javan Rhino: 74
  • Sumatran Rhino: <80
  • Greater One-Horned Rhino: 3,588
  • White Rhino: 17,212 – 18,915

While there are more Black Rhinos than Greater One-Horned Rhinos, the precipitous population decline of the Black Rhino makes scientists increasingly concerned about their survival.

Rhinoceros Range

rhino range

Threats

Rhinos are exposed to an array of threats. The Rhino horn trade is an overarching threat for all species, with demand for Rhino horn in Vietnam and China still driving much of the illegal poaching[source].

Sumatran Rhinos have had the unique threat of forest fires destroying their habitats in recent decades, while Javan Rhinos have had their habitat reduced by up to 60%[source] due to the spread of the Arenga palm tree whose thick growth on forest floors restricts the growth of Rhino food sources.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts focus on eliminating rhino horn trade, protecting and regenerating habitats, and promoting breeding in rhino sancturaries.

The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas provides a protective semi-wild existence for the animals that gives veterinary care and protection from poaching. There are currently 7 Rhinos in their sanctuary, and there have been two captive births.

Save the Rhino also works on suppressing demand for rhino horns by educating the public on the dangers of poaching and dispelling myths about health benefits of rhino horn. They also fund habitat regeneration in Indonesia.

5. Hammerhead Shark

hammerhead shark
Scientific NameSphyrnidae
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeTropics
Estimated Population (2022)Unknown
Key ThreatsFishing Nets

About

The Smalleye, Scalloped and Great Hammerhead Sharks are all critically endangered, while the Smooth Hammerhead is listed as vulnerable.

The overall population of hammerhead sharks is unknown due to a lack of measurement methodology. However, studies[source] have demonstrated the great hammerhead’s catch rate, which correlates with population density, has decreased by between 50% – 80% since the 1970s.

The iconic shark is found throughout the world’s tropics, including the coastlines of Australia, Mexico, South America, South Asia, and Africa. Sadly, fishing of the shark continues today, and remains legal in even developed areas, such as some jurisdictions in Australia[source].

Hammerhead Shark Range

hammerhead shark range

Threats

The key threat to the hammerhead shark is over-fishing.

Commercial nets catch the shark by accident, while they’re also intentionally hunted for their fins. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in South-East Asia, but can also be found in restaurants in North America[source].

Shark fins are often cut off and the shark released into the ocean where they die due to their inability to swim[source].

Conservation Efforts

Sadly, there are minimal conservation efforts to protect the hammerhead shark.

Efforts to protect them from over-fishing vary by jurisdiction. Florida insists on instant release[source] while most jurisdictions in Australia have annual catch limits[source].

The IUCN recommends banning retention of hammerheads and instant release of sharks caught in nets. However, proposals to ban ‘hammerhead landings’ (taking bycatch to shore) through the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) have repeatedly failed.

6. Macaws

Gold Macaw
Scientific NameAnodorhynchus glaucus, Ara glaucogularis, Ara ambiguus
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangePockets of Central and South America
Estimated Population (2022)Varied – See Explanation Below
Key ThreatsHabitat Destruction, Poaching

About

Three of 19 species of Macaw are critically endangered. These are the Blue-Throated Macaw, Great Green Macaw, and Red-Fronted Macaw. The Cuban Macaw is already extinct.

The Macaw of most concern is the Glaucous Macaw which hasn’t been seen since 2001. Estimates place the probability of them still existing being at around 40%[source].

The critically endangered population estimates stand at:

  • Glaucous Macaw 0-20
  • Great Green Macaw 500-1000
  • Red-fronted Macaw 200-600

The Glaucous Macaw and Red-Fronted Macaw were once widely found in pockets of South America, particularly around Bolivia and Uruguay respectively. The Great Green Macaw’s geographic range is Guatemala down to Colombia and Ecuador.

Macaw Range

macaw range

Threats

All three critically endangered macaw species face the dual threats of deforestation and poaching.

Deforestation for the expansion of agriculture continues to pose a significant threat, particularly to the imperiled Glaucous Macaw. Pineapple farming fields have expanded dramatically, leaving the macaws with increasingly smaller habitats to roam[source]. Similarly, agricultural expansion and deforestation for firewood continue to threaten the Red-fronted and Great Green Macaws[source].

Wild macaws are captured in order to be traded as cagebird pets. Researchers scouring pet markets have found numerous red-fronted Macaws being illegally sold in Bolivia and Peru[source].

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts have been slow and led by NGOs rather than governments. One of the most active conservation foundations is Armonía Bolivia. They focus their efforts on protecting macaw habitats and establishing breeding boxes to facilitate population growth. They actively protect one particular breeding cliff where a flock of Red-fronted Macaws are known to live[source].

Protection of Cerro Blanco and surrounding forests is also underway to protect and expand the Great Green Macaw habitat[source].

7. Bumble Bees

Bumblebee
Scientific NameBombus
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeEurope and North America
Estimated Population (2022)Unknown
Key ThreatsClimate Change, Pesticides, Pathogens

About

Bumble bee species listed as critically endangered include the Suckley Cuckoo Bumble Bee, Franklin’s Bumble Bee, and the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Other populations, such as the Common Eastern Bumble Bee, remain stable.

Overall bumble bee populations are falling worldwide. One influential US study[source] looking at four bumble bee species found that their populations have fallen by up to 96%, with their geographical ranges contracting by 23–87%. Another study[source] of 66 species in Europe and North America found a less extreme but still concerning 17% decline over 100 years.

This is part of a broader phenomenon known as pollinator decline. Beginning in the 1990s, most of the world’s pollinator species have experienced rapid population loss[source]. As an important intermediary for flora reproduction, the loss of pollinators is having extremely concerning flow-on effects for entire ecosystems.

Bumble Bee Range (All Species)

bumblebee range

Threats

Climate change is known to be a key cause of pollinator decline. Bumble bees are highly susceptible to small changes in temperature and are known to prefer cooler climates overall. Scientists have found correlation between areas with extreme temperature swings and higher overall temperatures and bumble bee population decline[source].

Loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, use of agricultural pesticides, and spread of pathogens from commercial to wild bee populations are also cited as threats[source].

Conservation Efforts

Bumble Bee conservation is something everyone can participate in. Despite their decreasing abundance, remaining populations of bumble bees still frequent backyards across Europe and North America. To encourage their presence, plant native flowers and avoid use of pesticides in your own gardens[source].

Both North America and the United Kingdom have apps for anyone to take photos of bumble bees in their gardens which are then uploaded to the app. These citizen science projects allow scientists to find and monitor rare bumble bee species.

On a governmental level, reduction in pesticide use in agriculture remains key. Many pesticides are still in use on farms, while many others have already been banned[source].

8. Sumatran Elephant

Sumatran Elephant
Scientific NameElephas maximus sumatrensis
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeRemote Forests in Indonesia
Estimated Population (2022)Less than 2,800
Key ThreatsDeforestation, Palm Oil Plantations, Poachers

About

The most up-to-date survey of Sumatran Elephant populations was in 2008 when it was estimated that there were between 2,400 and 2,800 left in the wild. However, given the rapid decline of their population over recent decades, this is likely an overestimate [source].

They once roamed all over the Indonesian island of Sumatra, but today their populations are split, dispersed, and declining. Dozens of herds have died out in the past 40 years and they became locally extinct in 23 of their 43 known ranges[source].

There was 50% population loss between 1985 and 2007 alone[source].

The Sumatran Elephant shares similar habitats to the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Orangutan, and Sumatran Rhino who are also on this list as critically endangered species due to Sumatra’s long-running deforestation practices.

Sumatran Elephant Range

Sumatran elephant range

Threats

The primary threat to the Sumatran Elephant is the depletion of their habitats. An estimated 69% of their habitat had been depleted between 1980 and 2007. This habitat has been overtaken for agriculture and palm oil plantations.

Poaching for elephant tusk also remains a serious problem with estimates taken between 2012 and 2015 showing 10% of all wild Sumatran Elephants had been killed for ivory in just that 3 year period[source].

As humans move deeper into forests and clear land for agriculture, elephant populations become separated, fragmented, and too small to be viable in the long-term. Unfortunately, proposed roads through Leuser National Park will only open up the elephant’s habitat to more human contact[source].

Conservation Efforts

The greatest hope for the preservation of a viable wild Sumatran Elephant population is Tesso Nilo National Park which was established in 2004 and has since doubled in size[source]. There are an estimated 150 Sumatran Elephants in the park.

However, illegal palm oil plantations continually appear in the park and wildfires exacerbated by climate change have recently ripped through large swathes of the park. Furthermore, nearby villagers continue to kill elephants that roam too close to their plantations as the elephants are considered pests by locals[source].

Everyday citizens can choose not to purchase palm oil products to deplete demand, which can in turn deter farmers from clearing more land for palm oil plantations. Even companies who claim to ethically produce palm oil are suspected of buying their oil from the illegal plantations owned by former military brass[source].

9. Sumatran Tiger

Sumatran Tiger
Scientific NamePanthera tigris sondaica
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeRemote Forests in Indonesia
Estimated Population (2022)328 – 908
Key ThreatsDeforestation, Palm Oil Plantations, Poachers

About

It is estimated that there are just 328 – 908 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild today[source].

Recent surveys have demonstrated a population decline of 16.6% between 2000 and 2012. Of most concern is the fact that the subpopulations have become so fragmented that there are only two viable populations left, defined by the presence of 30 or more females of breeding age[source].

They have traditionally inhabited forested areas in both the lowlands and mountains on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Like the Sumatran Elephant and Sumatran Orangutan, with whom they share a habitat, agriculturalists and palm oil farmers have been their greatest threat. The majority of the remaining Sumatran Tigers live in a series of dispersed but fragmented national parks, although about 100 remain in unprotected forest that is rapidly being eroded.

Sumatran Tiger Range

Sumatran tiger range

Threats

Deforestation and poaching are two the major threats faced by the remaining Sumatran Tiger populations.

Poachers continue to hunt the tiger to use its bones for jewelry, tiger skin rugs, and tiger bone wine. Tiger bone wine is a delicacy among ultra-rich Chinese consumers. It is believed by some that tiger bone wine gives the drinker the traits of the tiger[source].

The unbridled growth of palm tree forests for the production of palm oil has also encroached on the Sumatran Tiger’s habitat. Western appetite for palm tree oil, found in many shampoos and foods such as pizza dough, encourages the growth of palm tree plantations. Meanwhile, due to the shrinking habitat, the tiger’s traditional prey is also dwindling, which can affect the tiger population density a forest can carry[source].

Conservation Efforts

Within national parks, illegal poaching and even deforestation still occur.

To combat this, anti-poaching patrols have been set up to remove snare traps and deter poachers by ensuring law enforcement is visible around the forest. Furthermore, a fatwa (Islamic religious degree) has been ordered against poaching by religious authorities.

Rapid response teams have also been set up by Flora and Fauna International to minimize human-tiger conflict. When there are tiger-human encounters, trained personnel attend the scene to ensure the tiger is moved along swiftly rather than being killed by the local population. There is also a reserve of Sumatran Tigers in zoos around the world whose population is slowly growing. However, the captive population suffers from inbreeding, which is hard to counter given the low remaining population worldwide[source].

10. North Atlantic Right Whales

right whale
Scientific NameEubalaena glacialis
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeNorth Atlantic Coastline
Estimated Population (2022)400
Key ThreatsCommercial Fishing Nets, Collisions with Vessels

About

Multiple whale species are listed as endangered by IUCN, but that of most concern is the North Atlantic Right Whale.

Once abundant in the Atlantic Ocean, it became one of the most heavily hunted species by whalers in the 18th and 19th Centuries[source]. Labeled the ‘right’ whale because whalers thought it the best whale to catch, it’s got a high blubber count and swims close to the surface of the water. Both these features made it an attractive animal to hunt.

Until recently there were two populations of North Atlantic Right Whales, although the eastern population has not been sighted in a number of years. The remaining population numbers about 400 and are observed up and down the east coast of North America as well as Iceland and Greenland[source]. Between 2017 and 2019, several of these whales were found dead, causing heightened concern within the scientific community[source].

North Atlantic Right Whale Range

north Atlantic right whale range

Threats

While historically whaling was the biggest threat to the North Atlantic Right Whale, today whaling has been banned throughout the whale’s range.

The biggest threats today are commercial nets thrown to catch fish and collisions with ships. Because North Atlantic Right Wales swim close to the surface, they will often encounter both boats and nets.

Surveys have found that most (82%) North Atlantic Right Wales have scars from being caught in nets, indicating very frequent annual encounters with commercial fishing vessels[source]. Furthermore, 52% of autopsied North Atlantic Right Whales in one study were found to have died from blunt trauma consistent with collisions with large commercial vessels[source].

Conservation Efforts

The most effective step to reduce the precipitous decline in the Right Whale population was a moratorium on whaling which extends back to the 1930s.

More recently, conservation has primarily been the concern of the Canadian and US governments. Both governments have initiated large vessel speed restrictions during migratory season. Some evidence[source] suggests these speed restrictions have helped reduce collisions between whales and vessels. Some types of fishing nets have also been banned in migratory routes. In particular, fixed snow crab and lobster fishing gear have been limited in parts of Canadian water[source].

11. Philippine Crocodile

philippine crocodile
Scientific NameCrocodylus mindorensis
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeMindanao (Philippines)
Estimated Population (2022)100
Key ThreatsDynamite Fishing, Human Killing

About

The Philippine Crocodile is the most endangered crocodile species in the world. Despite this, it remains under-researched and its conservation status is unknown to many locals.

This freshwater crocodile is only found on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. There are estimated to be about 100 adults left in the population, despite once being abundant. Hatchlings are not counted in the population due to their high mortality rate.

Philippine crocodiles are understood to be very good for the local ecosystem. They keep local fish stocks in a healthy ecological balance by eating slow, sick and abundant fish. This ensures the fish stock is overall in good condition while also ensuring no one fish species becomes too dominant.

Philippine Crocodile Range

philippine crocodile range

Threats

Dangerous fishing methods such as dynamite fishing pose a serious threat to crocodiles in the Philippines.

Many locals also consider the Philippine Crocodile to be a threat to their safety, despite the fact it will rarely attack humans. Nonetheless, other larger and more dangerous saltwater crocodiles that inhabit the Philippines give all crocodiles in the nation a bad name. This can lead locals to kill any crocodile on sight[source].

Conservation Efforts

Laws protecting the Philippine Crocodile were put in place in 2001. Several zoos in the Philippines and Australia have sustainable captive breeding programs for a safety net population. This population may be used for genetic diversity in the future.

The Mabuwaya Foundation also offers people the chance to ‘sponsor a croc’. Through this program, the foundation goes into local schools and has students measure captive bred crocodiles to determine their age and health. The foundation helps to educate locals about the importance of preserving the endemic species.

12. Vaquita Dolphin

sumatran elephant
Public Domain Image by Paula Olson, NOAA

Scientific NamePhocoena sinus
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeNorthern Gulf of California
Estimated Population (2022)0 – 20
Key ThreatsCommercial Fishing Nets, Sharks

About

The Vaquita Dolphin have been spotted exclusively in a pocket in the northern end of the Gulf of California. This is the inner coastline of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, just south of the state of California.

Unfortunately, the Vaquita is expected to go extinct imminently, with rapid population decline occurring in recent decades. Population estimates showed the population dropped from 567 in 1997 to 19 in 2018[source]. Based on this rapid decline, it is probable that this dolphin will never be seen again.

Vaquita Dolphin Range

vaquita dolphin range

Threats

The Vaquita dolphin was faced with the twin effects of over-hunting by sharks, and incidental capture during commercial fishing. Gillnet surveys published in 2000 found that fishing nets were depleting the population by 7%-15% per year.

Due to the low population, they have been considered to be an unsustainable population, and inbreeding is likely to render extinction unavoidable.

Conservation Efforts

The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita has since 1997 recommended banning large fishing nets in the gulf. From 2008 to 2017 the Mexican government slowly introduced some laws to similarly restrict the use of gillnets, but illegal gillnet fishing has continued every year since.

The US government banned seafood caught in the Vaquita range in 2020, clearly far too late for the species’ survival.

Sea Shepherd, a conservation organization famous for attempting to sabotage commercial whaling vessels, sent ships to the Vaquita habitat to remove illegal gillnets, in response to the Mexican government’s lack of enforcement.

13. Peacock Tarantula

blue tarantula
Scientific NamePoecilotheria metallica
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeA single forest in Andhra Pradesh (India)
Estimated Population (2022)Unknown
Key ThreatsHabitat Destruction, Poaching

About

The Peacock Tarantula got its name from its remarkable blue coloration. This tarantula was believed to be extinct for over 100 years before it was rediscovered in 2001[source].

The population of the Peacock Tarantula is unknown due to lack of sufficient measurement methodology and the secretive pet trade. However, it is known to be critically endangered due to its very small range in the wild. It only exists in a small forest in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh which is less than 100 km2 [source].

The spider has not been bred in captivity in a zoo. The one known captive male died within 2 years of its capture without breeding. However, there are underground breeders in Europe and the United States who are believed to be successfully breeding and selling the spider to exotic pet enthusiasts [source].

Peacock Tarantula Range

peacock tarantula range

Threats

The key threat to the species is habitat destruction.

The spider was re-discovered in a highly disturbed forest that was not sufficiently protected from human activities. Local villagers would use the wood in the forest for firewood and construction timber[source].

Rare spider breeders have also been caught poaching Peacock Tarantulas and smuggling them to Europe to sell for a premium. Poaching remains a significant threat.

Conservation Efforts

Unfortunately, there is minimal conservation effort underway.

There is a protected forest area called the Gundla Brahmeshwaram Wildlife Sanctuary just 20 km from the location where the Peacock Tarantula is known to live. Conservationists believe there is potential for the tarantula to continue to thrive if it were to develop a substantial population in the sanctuary[source].

However, relocation is difficult because it may diffuse the local population, and the local population is already small and very hard to find.

The best prospects for survival may, ironically, be through the breeders who illegally poached the tarantula from its habitat.

14. Red Wolf

Red Wolf
Scientific NameCanis lupus rufus
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeSouth-Eastern United States
Estimated Population (2022)<300
Key ThreatsLandowners, Hybridization, Vehicles

About

Wolves once roamed Europe, Asia, and North America in far greater numbers and across significantly wider regions than they do today.

Several wolf species in North America were hunted to extinction, including the Newfoundland wolf, Southwestern wolf, Cascade Mountain wolf, Great Plains wolf, and Rocky Mountain wolves. In Europe, the six subspecies were near extinct before they were bred in captivity and released into protected lands[source].

Today, the wolf of most concern is the critically endangered red wolf of North Carolina. There is a stable captive population of about 245 wolves, but reintroduction to the wild has been mired with a range of problems including conflict with humans and hybridization due to breeding with coyotes.

Red Wolf Range

red wolf range

Threats

The Red Wolf’s greatest threat is conflict with humans.

The carcasses of released wolves are frequently identified, often within weeks of release, on roadsides after collisions with vehicles[source].

Furthermore, attempts to re-introduce the red wolf in North Carolina has been met with backlash from local populations. Landowners view them as unwelcome pests and they are regularly shot. Backlash from local populations has consistently hindered reintroduction efforts and diluted their effect.

Another major threat is hybridization due to breeding with coyotes who have moved into their traditional lands[source]. Successive attempts to re-introduce the Red Wolf to the wild have led to sufficient hybridization that scientists have been concerned that the genetically pure red wolf would not survive in the wild. In 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service also discontinued coyote sterilization programs, and since, purebred Red Wolves have become scarce[source].

Conservation Efforts

Repopulation efforts have been in place since the 1970s, but most have been unsuccessful.

The first attempt was a failed reintroduction to the Texas and Louisiana wilderness in 1972. Around the same time, captive breeding programs were ramped-up to create a sustainable captive population[source].

Reintroduction in North Carolina has been ongoing since the late 1980s. The wild population reached a high of about 130 individuals in 2011, but has since fallen dramatically due to human-wolf conflict.

Despite successive attempts to reintroduce the Red Wolf to the wild, there are just 20 red wolves roaming as part of a nonessential experimental population in North Carolina.

The Red Wolf will continue to survive in the captive population stock held by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and in partnership with zoos. This population is rising and is currently sitting at 245[source]. With over 50 breeding pairs, there should be enough genetic diversity for the wolf to survive long-term, but successful reintroduction to the wild remains elusive.

15. Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

wombat
Scientific NameLasiorhinus krefftii
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeEpping Forest National Park (Queensland, Australia)
Estimated Population (2022)250
Key ThreatsCattle, Bushfires, Climate Change, Natural Disasters

 About

The Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat was thought to be extinct after the two known populations disappeared sometime in the late 19th Century. But in 1930, a single remaining population was found in Queensland Australia.

That remaining population was estimated to be as few as 30 wombats in 1982 when an initial survey was undertaken. To protect the creatures, all cattle were removed from the area immediately[source]. Subsequently, each new survey revealed increased populations. In 2000, a survey found 113 northern hairy-nosed wombats, in 2010 there were 163 found, and in 2016, 250 were identified[source].

Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Range

Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat Range

Threats

The cause of the Wombat’s decline was cattle grazing.

Wombats are shy nocturnal creatures who do not wander far from their burrow. When food is scarce near their burrow, they will die. This is what occurs when cattle graze over their habitat.

Despite the slowly growing population within the protected reserve, the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is still considered critically endangered because it is only found in one very small area[source]. A natural disaster, epidemic, or even a sustained period of extreme drought may lead to extinction.

It is believed that the population only increases during good wet years. In 2000, a pack of dingoes came across the wombats and killed nine of the wombats, which was a nearly 10% decrease in the remaining population at the time[source].

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts are focused on protecting the wombats from predators and developing new sites for the wombats to flourish.

To protect the wombat from future dingo attacks, a fence was constructed around the entire wombat habitat[source].

The greatest concern for the wombats, however, is that they are only found in one place, leaving them vulnerable to disasters. To mitigate this concern, scientists identified a new reserve for them in 2009. Fifteen wombats were relocated to the new reserve where breeding took place. However, due to several deaths, only ten remain in the second site[source].

16. Jamaican Iguana

Jamaican Iguana
Scientific NameCyclura collei
Conservation StatusCritically Endangered
RangeHellshire Hills (Jamaica)
Estimated Population (2022)500
Key ThreatsDogs, Cats, and Mongooses

About

The Jamaican Iguana was declared extinct in 1948, but in 1990, a pig hunter walked a live one into a local zoo. His dog had caught it and carried it in his mouth back to the hunter.

Today, the population has been replenished up to above 500 Iguanas, with about 200 in the wild and the remainder in zoos[source].

The Iguana was once found throughout Jamaica as well as Little Goat Island and Great Goat Island. However, it is now only found in the small Hellshire Hills area on the south coast of Jamaica. They prefer dry, rocky forested areas.

Interestingly, they’re known to have very placid, friendly personas that draw similarities to dogs.

Jamaican Iguana Range

Jamaican Iguana Range

Threats

When Jamaica was settled by Europeans, the Iguana was thought to have been endemic throughout the island.

In the centuries after, the Jamaican Iguana’s population was depleted due to attacks from dogs used during pig hunts in the hills, and attacks from cats and mongooses.

Today, the northern and eastern Hellshire Hills are extensively logged for charcoal production and human settlements surround the forest, further restricting the Iguana’s habitat range[source].

Conservation Efforts

Conservation and population regeneration is driven by a captive headstarting program at Hope Zoo[source].

The captive Iguana Head Start Program occurs because young Jamaican Iguanas die at unsustainably high rates. So, the Zoo captures baby Iguanas, protects them for 4 to 6 years until they are at a healthy strength and weight, then releases them where they can live and breed in the wild.

There are also several captive populations in zoos in the United States which act as a safety net population. This population protects genetic diversity in case natural disasters hit the Hellshire Hills[source].

17. Giant Panda

panda bear
Scientific NameAiluropoda melanoleuca
Conservation StatusVulnerable
Range Qinling Mountains (Sichuan, China)
Estimated Population (2022)1,800
Key ThreatsDeforestation, Poaching, Climate Change

About

The Giant Panda’s status was lowered to ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN red list in 2016, but this list would not be complete with an update on the Panda’s condition.

The Giant Panda was on the brink of extinction for much of the 20th Century. The population dropped to a low of 1,216 in 1988[source].

Its demise prompted global interest in endangered species in the mid-20th Century. The World Wildlife Foundation even chose the Panda as the animal on its logo, which is a sign of how much the Panda galvanized the world behind animal conservation[source].

The population has recently risen to about 1,800 and the Chinese government also downgraded its status from Endangered to Vulnerable in July 2021[source].

The Giant Panda is found in the hills of the Qinling mountains in Sichuan province in China. Its habitat is bamboo forests which were rapidly deforested throughout the 20th Century. While the Panda population is increasing in some areas, it is also declining in Liangshan, Xiangling and Niuweihe, prompting concerns about local extinctions in those areas.

Giant Panda Range

giant panda range

Threats

Throughout the 20th Century, the major threat to the Panda was deforestation of the bamboo forests in the Qinling mountains in central China.

Poaching was also a major threat in the 20th Century. While direct poaching of Pandas is now very rare, they can still get caught in traps and snares set for other animals[source]. In the 21st Century, the Panda is faced with evolving threats. Climate change is now believed to be a possible cause of habitat loss over the medium term[source]. As temperatures rise, bamboo forests will retreat further into the mountains, leaving less habitat range for the Panda.

Conservation Efforts

After the 1988 survey that found a depleted population, the Chinese government rapidly banned Panda poaching and developed 66 protective reserves for the creature.

In 2017, the government also announced a new 10,476-square-mile reserve to further bolster the Panda’s prospects[source].

The protection of the Giant Panda is generally understood to have been good for many other species in the region. Classified as an ‘umbrella species’, the protection of its habitat often leads to healthier populations of many other species who thrive in the same areas.

Nevertheless, studies[source] have found the prioritization of Giant Pandas has led to population declines for large carnivores in the region, including leopards, snow leopards, wolves and dholes. Within the 66 Panda reserves, leopards have disappeared from 81% of the reserve area and wolves have disappeared from 77% of the area[source].

Related: Which Bears are Endangered?

List of 82 Other Endangered Species

NameClassEst. PopulationIUCN Status[source]
Mountain Chicken FrogAmphibian130Critically Endangered
Bleeding ToadAmphibian1-249Critically Endangered
Miles’ Robber FrogAmphibian<50Critically Endangered
Reticulate Leaf FrogAmphibianUnknownCritically Endangered
Spiny Giant FrogAmphibianUnknownCritically Endangered
Yellow-Spotted Tree FrogAmphibianUnknownCritically Endangered
Chinese Giant SalamanderAmphibianUnknownCritically Endangered
Rameshwaram Parachute SpiderAnachrid<5,000Critically Endangered
White-backed VultureBird270,000Critically Endangered
Indian VultureBird30,000Critically Endangered
Sociable LapwingBird11,200Critically Endangered
Hooded GrebeBird650-800Critically Endangered
Philippine EagleBird180-500Critically Endangered
California CondorBird93Critically Endangered
Jerdon’s CourserBird50-249Critically Endangered
White-Bellied CinclodesBird50-249Critically Endangered
Royal CinclodesBird50-249Critically Endangered
Dwarf IbisBird50-249Critically Endangered
Newton’s FiscalBird50-249 Critically Endangered
Brazilian MerganserBird50-249Critically Endangered
Long-billed Forest-WarblerBird50-249Critically Endangered
White-Bellied HeronBird50-249Critically Endangered
Mangrove FinchBird40-80Critically Endangered
Chinese Crested TernBird30-49Critically Endangered
Madagascar PochardBird20-49Critically Endangered
Atlantic SturgeonFish20-750Critically Endangered
Angelshark Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Beluga FishUnknownCritically Endangered
Giant Carp FishUnknownCritically Endangered
Sahara Killifish Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Whitespotted Wedgefish Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Oceanic Whitetip Shark Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Common Skate Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
European Eel Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Green Sawfish Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Kaluga Fish UnknownCritically Endangered
Crau Plain GrasshopperInsect<5,000Critically Endangered
Bozdagh GrasshopperInsectUnknownCritically Endangered
African Forest ElephantMammal<111,000Critically Endangered
African Savanna ElephantMammal<111,000Endangered
Asian ElephantMammal48,000-52,000Endangered
European MinkMammal<10,000Critically Endangered
Mountain Pygmy PossumMammal2,300Critically Endangered
Livingstone’s Flying FoxMammal<1,300Critically Endangered
Northern MuriquiMammal1,000Critically Endangered
Bactrian CamelMammal950Critically Endangered
Persian LeopardMammal800-1000Critically Endangered
Central Rock-RatMammal800Critically Endangered
SaolaMammal<750Critically Endangered
Sri Lankan LeopardMammal700-950Critically Endangered
Javan LeopardMammal350-525Critically Endangered
Pied TamarinMammal300Critically Endangered
Delacour’s LangurMammal240-250Critically Endangered
TamarawMammal220-300Critically Endangered
HirolaMammal200-250Critically Endangered
Pygmy RaccoonMammal192Critically Endangered
Vancouver Island MarmotMammal90Critically Endangered
Tonkin Snub-Nosed MonkeyMammal80-100Critically Endangered
Amur LeopardMammal<60Critically Endangered
Arabian LeopardMammal45-200Critically Endangered
AddaxMammal30-90Critically Endangered
African Wild AssMammal23-200Critically Endangered
Sahafary Sportive LemurMammal40Critically Endangered
Sunda PangolinMammalUnknownCritically Endangered
Chinese PangolinMammalUnknownCritically Endangered
Lesser Antillean IguanaReptile13,000-20,000Critically Endangered
Antanosy Day GeckoReptile5,000-10,000Critically Endangered
Antiguan Racer SnakeReptile<1,500Critically Endangered
Slender-Snouted CrocodileReptile1,000-20,000Critically Endangered
Yangtze Finless PorpoiseReptile500-1,800Critically Endangered
Siamese CrocodileReptile500-1,000Critically Endangered
Red-Crowned Roofed TurtleReptile500Critically Endangered
Orinoco CrocodileReptile250-1,500Critically Endangered
Ploughshare TortoiseReptile200-600Critically Endangered
Galápagos Pink Land IguanaReptile192Critically Endangered
La Gomera Giant LizardReptile150Critically Endangered
Northern River TerrapinReptile100Critically Endangered
Burmese Roofed TurtleReptile10Critically Endangered
Chinese Three-Striped Box TurtleReptileUnknownCritically Endangered
Leaf-Scaled Sea SnakeReptile UnknownCritically Endangered
Santa Catalina RattlesnakeReptile UnknownCritically Endangered
Central American River TurtleReptile UnknownCritically Endangered

Conclusion

A remarkably common theme across the list of vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species is the role of humans in the decline of important species in the global exosystem. It is clear from the research from expert conservation organiations – from IUCN to WWF – is that we live in the age of the anthroposcene. This is the era in which humans are the driving force behind changes in the earth’s ecosystem.

It is therefore contingent upon humans as individuals – and our government representatives – to take urgent action to seek ways in which we can live more sustainably and in harmony with the animals on our planet. In particular, there are the dual urgent needs to expand wildlands that are untouched by human expansion and to reduce global carbon emissions.

To take further action, focus on ethical consumption (including buying palm oil free products), join local conservation groups, sponsor an animal, and participate in ethical tourism. 

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