Hannah Scribbles

Archive for September, 2014|Monthly archive page

5 Less Popular Animals That Are Also Endangered

In Career, The Great Outdoors on September 4, 2014 at 8:47 am

Polar bears, despite their ability to capture the collective attention, aren’t everything when it comes to the extinction list.  Extinction events at the base of the food chain (think insects or amphibians, not tertiary predators) can fracture entire ecosystems.

Here are five animals you should be keeping your eyes on.

Pteropods (Ocean Acidification)

pteropods, effects of ocean acidification,

(Steve Ringman / MCT)

Hidden beneath the waves, these Pteropods form the basis of many ocean food webs.  But ocean acidification – caused by excess carbon dioxide – threatens the small snails by dissolving their protective shells.

Ocean acidification isn’t breaking news.  It happened before during the Permian-Triassic Extinction 250 million years ago, and that’s partially what makes the vulnerable Pteropod so alarming.  The snail forces a comparison between current climate events and the those took place millions of years ago.

Pangolin (Human Hunting)

pangolin cub, cute baby animals, pangolin extinction

With more than 1 million animals traded for meat and scales over the past decade, these scaly anteaters are one of the most trafficked species groups on the planet.

Not only are they hunted for meat, but their scales are supposed to contain medicinal properties.   As supplies dwindle in Asian markets, hunters are turning to Africa to source the Pangolin trade.  Human enthusiasm for Pangolins is driving the insect-eating critters into critical endangerment.

  • Chinese pangolin – critically endangered
  • Sunda pangolin – critically endangered
  • Indian pangolin – endangered
  • Philippine pangolin – endangered
  • Giant pangolin – vulnerable
  • Ground pangolin – vulnerable
  • Tree pangolin – vulnerable
  • Long-tailed pangolin – vulnerable

Vaquita marina Porpoise & Totoaba macdonaldi (Human Hunting)

vaquita marina, baja peninsula dolphins, fishing trade hurts dolphins, dolphin hunting,

Photo Credit: Paula Olson (NOAA Contractor)

The world’s smallest porpoise – and one of its most critically endangered – has been nearly wiped out by human hunting in the Gulf of California, the species’s native habitat.  Despite fishery restrictions and government protections, regulators haven’t been able to stop illegal hunters from making the catch.

But poachers aren’t even trying to catch the porpoise. They’re going after something much more lucrative:  totoaba bladders.

Poachers use gillnets to catch totoaba, a large drum fish that only lives in the Gulf of California.  Once the float bladder (i.e., swim bladder) is removed, the fish are often left to rot on the beach.

Float bladders from totoaba are considered a delicacy in China and can fetch upwards of $10 million dollars in Asia, making it a lucrative (but illegal) fishing market.  Coincidentally, totoaba are also on a critically endangered species, though their situation is not so bad as the vaquita marina, whose population has dwindled into the 100s, according to experts.

Great Apes (Habitat Destruction)

oragutan eating, what are great apes, orangutans endangered, habitat destruction affects apes

By Eleifert (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not sure if you heard it, but back in July primatologist Jane Goodall warned that chimpanzees and other great apes face extinction within decades if habitat destruction continues at its current rate.

As infrastructure development continues, ape habitats get cut off from one another.  Colonies become isolated, then inbred and then weaker.

Although  developers are being pushed to adopt no-deforestation policies, more than half of African land set aside for palm oil plantations overlaps with current ape habitat.

Hellbenders (Water Quality)

hellbenders, north american salamander, giant salamanders,

Image source: NPR/Robert J. Erwin/Science Source

Researchers from Purdue University found that Hellbenders, the largest salamanders in the United States, were declining in the wild.  The Ozark Hellbender, a subspecies that only lives in Arkansas and Missouri, has been listed as endangered since 2011.

Scientists aren’t convinced that Hellbenders are dying off – just that they aren’t where they should be in the wild.  Some guesses as to their whereabouts include:

  1. They moved, pioneer-style, in search of faster flowing rivers
  2. Silt and other debris gathers in the crevaces of the river, leaving young salamanders homeless and vulnerable to the environment
  3. The deadly fungus, which affects amphibians on a global scale, found the Hellbenders

So how do you help stop animal extinction?  A good first step is just to care.  Be conscious of where your products come from.  Try to buy animal-free toiletries from companies that don’t do animal testing.  This is harder than it seems because it basically rules out anything from Johnson & Johnson or Procter & Gamble.

You can spread awareness of animal trafficking, habitat destruction and water quality issues.  Humans are smart when we want to be, and I firmly believe development doesn’t have to mean the end of the animal kingdom.  We just need to plan better and to care about coexisting with nature.

If you are especially dedicated, offer up some time to organizations that fight against habitat destruction and animal trafficking.  The WWF is just one dedicated to conservation around the world.  If you don’t like them, find one that suits you.

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