Photos of endangered and vulnerable species (18 pictures)
1. CHEETAH CUB PEERING OUT FROM UNDER ITS MOTHER IN KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
Photo by Scott Belt (Morris, IL); Photographed July 2012
The cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, has disappeared from huge portions of its historical range. Scientists believe there are now roughly only 7,500 adult animals in the wild. The decline is primarily due to habitat loss and the killing of cheetahs that are believed to be threats to livestock.
2. A GREEN SEA TURTLE ON THE BEACH OF OAHU, HAWAII
Photo by Jesse Farrar (Kapolei, HI); Photographed October 2007
Population declines have resulted from the overharvesting of eggs and adult females from nesting beaches. The animals’ feeding grounds, such as sea grass beds, are also at risk from onshore coastal development, and green sea turtles are often accidentally killed as fishing “bycatch.”
3. A JAGUAR DRINKING FROM A PUDDLE IN A RESERVE IN BOLIVIA
Photo by Ben Shkolnik (Jerusalem, Israel); Photographed February 2007
Historically, the jaguar, the largest cat in the Americas, ranged from the southwestern U.S. to the Rio Negro in Argentina. Today, the majority of the jaguar population, roughly 88 percent, is confined to the Amazon. Hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation threaten current jaguar populations.
Status: Near Threatened
4. FIVE-MONTH-OLD GIANT PANDA CUB AT PLAY AT THE WOLONG PANDA PRESERVE, CHINA
Photo by Barbara Williams (Owings Mills, MD); Photographed February 2008
With only roughly 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild, according to a 2004 survey from the the WWF, the species is quickly disappearing. The panda’s primary habitat, China’s Yangtze Basin region, is the geographic and economic heart of a country in an economic boom. Roads and railroads crisscross forests, making it harder for panda populations to expand and mate. Deforestation also reduces pandas’ access to bamboo, their main food source.
5. THE ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA, ONE OF THE WORLD’S FASTEST FISH, IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
Photo by Keith Ellenbogen (Newton, MA); Photographed June 2008
Bluefin tuna populations are declining because of overfishing and illegal fishing in the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans. According to the WWF, their use as an ingredient in sushi creates a large demand.
6. A BELUGA WHALE AT THE ATLANTA AQUARIUM
Photo by Lucinda Rhodes (Flint, MI); Photographed January 2007
Beluga whales return to the same estuaries each year which make specific populations vulnerable to overhunting. According to the WWF, climate change poses another threat as Belugas relying on sea ice to shield them from predators like orcas.
Status: Near Threatened
7. A WILD DOG RUNNING THROUGH KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA
Photo by Daniel Cejudo (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands); Photographed October 2011
The WWF reports that the major threats to the survival of wild dogs include accidental and targeted killings by humans, viral diseases like rabies and distemper, habitat loss and competition with larger predators like lions. Conflicts occur when wild dogs come in contact with people whose livelihoods rest largely on livestock and agriculture, which shrink the animals’ hunting grounds.
8. RED PANDA AT THE PHILADELPHIA ZOO
The red panda’s range includes Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern China. The current population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature adults. Habitat loss is considered the biggest threat to the species, but red pandas are also accidentally killed in snares set for animals such as deer and wild pigs.
9. ENDANGERED BLACK RHINOS MEET IN A STANDOFF IN A FIELD IN NAMIBIA
Photo by Lawrence Smith (Mission Viejo, CA); Photographed March 2011
The black rhinos’ horns make the animals lucrative targets for illegal traders. Rhino horns are highly prized commodities in Asia where they are used both for ornamentation and traditional medicine. Between 1970 and 1992, 96 percent of the remaining black rhino population in Africa was killed, according to the WWF. In 2010, 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa for their horns—almost one every day.
Status: Critically Endangered
10. GALÁPAGOS SEA LIONS NAPPING ON THE BEACH AT GARDNER BAY ON THE ISLAND OF ESPANOLA, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
Photo by Melissa Estes (Fort Myers, FL); Photographed May 2011
Scientists estimate the population of Galápagos sea lions has declined roughly 50 percent since 1978. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), introduced species such as feral dogs carry diseases that Galápagos sea lions are particularly susceptible to. Sea lions are also vulnerable to fluctuations in ocean currents due to climate change, which directly impacts their food source.
11. THE YELLOW-FOOTED ROCK-WALLABY AVOIDING DETECTION IN THE FLINDERS RANGES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Photo by Paul Huntley (North Sydney, Australia); Photographed August 2011
A now-outlawed fur trade caused a sharp decline in rock-wallabies. But according to the WWF, the species is still threatened by removal of native vegetation in their habitats, which forces the wallabies to compete for food with other animals.
Status: Near Threatened
12. A BORNEAN ORANGUTAN MOTHER CARRIES HER BABIES THROUGH A SWAMP IN CENTRAL KALIMANTAN, BORNEO
Photo by Cheng Shun Ling (Singapore, Republic of Singapore); Photographed October 2010
Orangutan numbers have declined rapidly since the middle of the 20th century because of human activities, including hunting, unsustainable and often illegal logging, mining and deforestation for agriculture. Catastrophic forest fires in Kalimantan in 1997 and 1998 also reportedly killed up to 8,000 orangutans.
13. A WHALE SHARK GLIDES THROUGH SHALLOW WATERS IN THE MALDIVES
Photo by Aaron Fink (Atlanta, GA); Photographed October 2010
Whale sharks, the world’s largest living chondrichthyan, can grow up to 40 feet in length. Whale sharks are targeted for their meat, fins and oil and may become tangled in fishing gear designed to catch other fish.
14. LOCKING EYES WITH A ROYAL BENGAL TIGER IN THE TADOBA TIGER RESERVE, INDIA
Photo by Sangeeta Dhanuka (Mumbai, India); Photographed April 2010
Expanding human populations on the Indian subcontinent have pushed tigers into small, isolated habitats and decreased the populations of natural prey, such as deer and antelopes. Despite the international ban on the tiger trade, put in place in 1993, tiger populations are also being decimated by poaching. The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for tigers, which are sold and used as status symbols, decorative items, and folk cures, according to the WWF.
15. A BABY BONOBO AT THE JACKSONVILLE ZOO, JACKSONVILLE, FL
Photo by Graham McGeorge (Jacksonville, FL); Photographed October 2012
Bonobos face an increasingly troubled existence; only part of their habitat is protected, and due to a growing human population and increases in agricultural and logging, they are losing their homes. Humans also hunt them for food and use them in traditional medicine, says the WWF.
16. AN ELEPHANT CALF STAYS CLOSE TO ITS ELDERS AS EVENING APPROACHES IN SAVUTI, BOTSWANA
Photo by Jacqueline Deely (San Jose, CA); Photographed September 2011
African elephant populations, which numbered roughly 3 to 5 million in the last century, have been severely reduced because of hunting, according to the WWF. A growing demand for ivory in Asia has led to a surge in poaching in Africa, making a population that once showed promising signs of recovery at risk once more.
17. A MOTHER POLAR BEAR AND CUBS NEAR SPITSBERGEN, NORWAY
Photo by Claire Waring (Kettering, UK); Photographed June 2012
The loss of sea ice habitat due to climate change is the biggest threat to polar bears today. Polar bears rely on the sea ice as a way to access seals, their primary food source.
The changing climate also forces polar bears to spend longer periods on land rather than in open water, leading to increased contact with Arctic communities, according to the WWF. Such interactions sometimes prove deadly for both humans and bears.
18. MAKARA, THE DOMINANT MALE OF THE HABINYANJA GROUP, RESIDES IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST, UGANDA
Photo by Gonçalo Barriga (Paço de Arcos, Portugal); Photographed September 2012
The mountain gorilla is found only in two isolated populations – one in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and one in the Virunga Volcanoes region that overlaps Rowanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Scientists estimate the eastern gorilla population, of which the mountain gorilla is a subspecies, will suffer a decline of over 50 percent over the course of three generations.