There Are Less Than 100 Members of Each of These Species Left in Existence

18 Sep

by Brian Merchant / MotherloadExtinct-animals_large

When we talk about the sixth great extinction event—the humankind-induced mass die-off that we’re in the early stages of at the moment—we talk about climate change. We talk about vanishing habitats, we talk about biodiversity loss, and we talk about how mankind has managed to kill off the world’s plants and animals with unprecedented efficiency. We talk about how biologists estimate that 200 species go extinct every day, and we talk about how this is just the dawn of the anthropocene.

We talk and we talk…

and someone sends around a newsletter with pictures of tigers and panda bears, and we read it, and we turn on the TV. It’s all a bit too much to comprehend, all those plants and animals fading into oblivion and making room for more humans and their resource-extracting operations. It doesn’t fit in our brains, and that’s not our fault. So let’s try this: You can count to 100. You can imagine 100 things in a room, or what every card in two decks looks like spread out on the desk. We can do that.

Let’s focus for a second on the species of plants and animals that now count fewer than 100 members in their entire ranks. Many of these will be among the next species to vanish entirely. It’s unlikely you’ve heard of many of them—there are few marquee efforts to save them, you won’t find many in zoos. Yet the ills that afflict these beleaguered species represent a pretty thorough cross-section of those that are driving all extinctions around the world: human beings are destroying their habitat, human-induced climate change is disrupting their ecosystems, humans are hunting them, and there’s a pattern here.

So here are some of the most endangered species in the world, and yes, this is going to be unpleasant. Because for once, we can grasp it—chances are, we’re going to end up killing each and every one of these animals. (all data comes from the Guardian, IUCN and the London Zoological Society)

Javan Rhino

How Many Left: Less than 100
What’s Killing It: Poachers. The animal’s population is now too small for effective breeding—what isn’t hunted will likely dwindle until there are none left.

Amsterdam Albatross

How Many Left: 100
What’s Killing It: Long-line fishing operations snag the massive birds and drown them.

Cuban Funnel-Eared Bat

How Many Left: Less than 100
What’s Killing It: Development is destroying its habitat in Cuba, the only place it is found.

West Australian Underground Orchid

How Many Left: Less than 100
What’s Killing It: Climate change, land-clearing for agriculture, and over-salination. The remarkable orchid grows entirely underground yet blooms just on the surface.

Dusky Gopher Frog

How Many Left: 60-100
What’s Killing It: Fungal diseases, like those afflicting amphibian populations across the world, are bringing down the dusky gopher frog. So is climate change, which is disappearing its habitat.

Fatuhiva Monarch

How Many Left: 50
What’s Killing It: Invasive species like feral cats and rats are eating them into oblivion.

Giant Indian Bustard

How Many Left: 50
What’s Killing It: We’re clearing its habitat to make room for agriculture; the great bustards have nowhere to live.

Chinese Crested Tern

How Many Left: Less than 50
What’s Killing It: Egg snatchers and habitat destroyers (developers and farmers).

Santa Catarina’s Guinea Pig

How Many Left: 40-60
What’s Killing It: Habitat destruction and hunters.

Gigasiphon macrosiphon

How Many Left: 33
What’s Killing It: Wild pigs are eating them, and humans are logging and developing away their habitat.

Qiaojia Pine

How Many Left: Less than 25
What’s Killing It: Logging and deforestation. Dwindling populations mean the fate of the rarest pine in the world is pretty much sealed.

Madagascar Pochard

How Many Left: 20
What’s Killing It: Slash-and-burn ag laid waste to their habitat, and hunters are picking off the rest.

Hainan Gibbon

How Many Left: Less than 20
What’s Killing It: Hunting and poaching. There are less than two dozen of these gibbons left in the wild.

Forest Coconut

How Many Left: Less than 10
What’s Killing It: People cut down the trees to harvest its edible heart.

Baishan Fir

How Many Left: 5
What’s Killing It: Encroaching agriculture operations and more frequent fires.

Magnolia Wolfii

How Many Left: Less than 5
What’s Killing It: Deforestation, plain and simple. You’re looking at two out of five of the remaining magnolia wolfii trees in existence.

Euphorbia tanaensis

How Many Left: 4 mature individuals. Yes, four.
What’s Killing It: Logging ventures tore the flowering plant out of the ground along with the timber.

Red River Giant Soft-Shell Turtle

How Many Left: 4.
What’s Killing It: All of the above: Hunting, pollution, wetland degradation. The strain of industrial civilization paired with our proclivity to hunt means the world’s largest freshwater turtle is unlikely to stave off extinction for long.

3 Responses to “There Are Less Than 100 Members of Each of These Species Left in Existence”

  1. Bob Weingarten September 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    This is too sad for words.

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