Summer break is finally here and perhaps you’re thinking of going on a vacation and exploring the world. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who will actually be doing that this summer. However, for those who aren’t that lucky, fret not! In commemoration of Endangered Species Day, we’ll take you on a journey around the world (all seven continents!) while showing you some of the endangered species that inhabit these places.
First off, what’s Endangered Species Day? This special day is part of a campaign organised by the Endangered Species Coalition. Through the Endangered Species Day, the Coalition hopes to educate people of all ages about the significance of protecting endangered species, as well as inform people about the everyday efforts that they can undertake to contribute to conservation. In 2018, Endangered Species Day will be commemorated on May 18th. Although efforts for Endangered Species Day are largely concentrated in the United States, we will be focusing on species found around the world for this blog post and the conservation statuses of these organisms will be based off the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Asia – Gymnoderma insulare [Endangered]
Starting from home in Asia, we have Gymnoderma insulare, which is a well-documented lichen due to its rarity in the wild. This lichen was only found in five locations in Japan (during the period of 1926-2012) and Taiwan (in 2007). It grows at the bottom of tree trunks in old forests, specifically the trees Cryptomeria japonica (in Japan) and Chamaecyparis obtusa (in Taiwan). Old-growth forests with these two tree species were and continue to be threatened by forestry and natural hazards such as typhoons.
Australia – Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) [Critically Endangered]
(Credits: Jeremiah Blatz)
Going down under, the hawksbill turtle can be found nesting in small numbers along the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The Dampier Archipelago and Montebello Islands (off the northwest coast of Australia) are home to one of the biggest hawksbill populations globally. Sadly, these majestic creatures face many threats such as tortoiseshell trade, egg poaching and destruction of nesting habitats – all of which severely affect their population and ability to reproduce.
Antarctica – Amsterdam albatross (Diomedea amsterdamensis) [Critically Endangered]
(Credits: Dominique Filippi)
Prepare your thick fur coats and stay warm, for we’re heading to Antarctica! Look up, as you may see the Amsterdam albatross, which is a humongous bird with a wingspan of up to 340cm. It is an endemic species, which means that it breeds only on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island. The latest data shows the total population standing at about 170 birds. Although the recent growing population has been encouraging, it is projected that in the long run, the albatross populations will see a continuing decline due to a disease that results in chick mortality.
Africa – Senecio exuberans [Endangered]
(Credits: Peter Wragg)
Ditch the winter wear and get decked out in easy breezy clothes as we traverse the vast grasslands of Africa. Senecio exuberans was once described as ‘one of the most characteristic features’ of the grasslands around Pietermaritzburg. It’s not hard to see why, as it can grow up to 1.5m tall and its bright yellow flowers stand out among the African grasslands. This species was initially a common sight on such habitats. Unfortunately, as a result of agricultural and developmental pressures, this charismatic plant is now close to extinction.
Europe – Dusky winged fritillary (Boloria improba) [Endangered]
(Credits: Magnus Unger)
Next, we move on to Europe to see the beautiful dusky winged fritillary. This butterfly can only be found on exposed, grassy areas, frequently on gentle gradients within a limited geographic range in Northern Europe. Owing to its restricted range, long-term threats to this species include climate change and the subsequent changes in vegetation and timberline.
North America – Red wolf (Canis rufus) [Critically Endangered]
Say hello to the red wolf in North America! Interestingly, these wolves were declared to be Extinct in the Wild by 1980. A successful reintroduction in 1987 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) led to a reintroduced population in eastern North Carolina, USA. Current population numbers within this area are less than 150. Anthropogenic threats such as moving vehicles and gunshots can pose serious dangers to this fragile population.
South America – Orincoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) [Critically Endangered]
(Credits: Fernando Flores)
Finally, we end off our world tour in South America, where the Orinoco crocodile resides exclusively in in the Orinoco River. Holding the title of being the largest predator in the Americas, the male Orincoco crocodiles can grow up to 6m long (that’s how tall giraffes are!). In the past, these reptilians were nearly hunted to extinction for the production of leather. Today, pollution, hunting and the collection of juvenile crocodiles for the live animal trade are the biggest threats to the population, which has been reduced to about 500 individuals.
As Endangered Species Day approaches, you could contribute to conservation efforts through simple acts such as sharing this post with your family and friends, or just by learning more about the threats that biodiversity faces. With that, we hope that you now know more about endangered animals around the world and have a great summer vacation!
Endangered Species Day. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.endangered.org/campaigns/endangered-species-day/
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Hamann, M., & Riskas, K. (2013). Australian endangered species: Hawksbill Turtle. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/australian-endangered-species-hawksbill-turtle-16218
Mortimer, J.A & Donnelly, M. (IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group). 2008. Eretmochelys imbricata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T8005A12881238. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T8005A12881238.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.
BirdLife International. 2017. Diomedea amsterdamensis (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22698310A110677305. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-1.RLTS.T22698310A110677305.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.
Senecio exuberans | Plantz Africa. Retrieved from http://pza.sanbi.org/senecio-exuberans
Kloof Conservancy » Rare and Endangered Plants. Retrieved from https://www.kloofconservancy.org.za/rare-and-endangered-plants/
van Swaay, C., Wynhoff, I., Verovnik, R., Wiemers, M., López Munguira, M., Maes, D., Sasic, M., Verstrael, T., Warren, M. & Settele, J. 2010. Boloria improba. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T174312A7048346. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.
Kelly, B.T., Beyer, A. & Phillips, M.K. 2008. Canis rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3747A10057394. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3747A10057394.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.
Schley, R. (2016). On the brink: 10 South American species endangered by environmental changeClimate & Environment at ImperialInsights from staff and students across Imperial working in climate and environment related areas. Retrieved from https://granthaminstitute.com/2016/03/02/on-the-brink-10-south-american-species-endangered-by-environmental-change/