As you view the endangered animals on our list of the 10 Most Endangered Animal Species, please keep in mind is that there currently are thousands of birds and animals that may not be with us in a couple of decades. The many threats facing the world’s wildlife include habitat loss—in many cases due to the rapid destruction of the world’s rain forests—as well as illegal hunting (which has increased astronomically in recent years), and global climate change, which is having a great effect even on wildlife habitat this is not being directly destroyed by humans.
Scientists have estimated that over the course of Earth’s history, anywhere between 1 and 4 billion species have existed.
The natural extinction rate (aka background rate) describes how fast plants, mammals, birds and insects would die off if humans weren’t in the picture. It is estimated that today species are disappearing at almost 1,000 times the natural rate, meaning we’re losing around 150-200 species every single day.
Choosing animals that are likely to go extinct before your children have the opportunity to see them was a daunting task.
By only picking 10, we had to leave out countless other animals that are facing similar depressing circumstances. But millions of other species, many never known to science, are also likely to perish in the coming decades.
10. Northern Right Whale
Hunted to near extinction, 450 right whales still swim the Atlantic
Status: Endangered. As Northern Right whales continue to be a target for the whaling industry, their numbers face extermination. The current population is estimated to be around 350-400.
Athough the the northern right whale (Eubalena glacialis) has remained the most endangered of all the world’s whale species. Warming ocean waters, particularly in the Gulf of Maine where the whales often feed, have caused krill—the tiny, shrimp-like creatures on which right whales feed—to disperse and become more difficult for the whales to find. As a result, right whale reproduction has fallen to an alarmingly low level, deaths due to all causes have increased, with 16 of the huge cetaceans found dead in 2017 alone, and researchers are finding evidence of increased levels of stress in the animals. So alarming is the situation that we’ve decided to put the northern right whale right back at the top of our List.
The Right whale got its name because 19th century 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. Though now protected by law, right whales continue to suffer losses due to due to ship strikes, entanglements in commercial fishing gear that often cause them to drown—and now, increasingly, and as a result global climate change, to the scarcity of the tiny crustaceans on which they feed.