The 16 Most Endangered Animals In The World - Just 60 Brown Spider Monkeys Remain!

The 16 Most Endangered Animals In The World - Just 60 Brown Spider Monkeys Remain!

Posted by Ellie Hutchin on Jul 19, 2017

As many of you are already aware, the ethos of The Great Projects is to conserve the precious, yet vulnerable wildlife that roams our planet today. Man has a great obligation to protect the sensational flora and fauna that can be found around the world, as it is mainly due to human activity that so many species are at risk of extinction today. As the most "intelligent" life on earth, our actions ironically seem to contradict our morals, and this should not be ignored just because the wildlife affected cannot communicate the struggles they now face due to human exploitation. We do not believe in preaching at The Great Projects, we simply want to spread awareness of the plight of endangered species and how the world, humans, fauna and flora alike will be affected if action is not taken.

First up on the list is the elusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

The Ivory Billed Woodpecker

Now, this is a special case because no one can actually say for certain if this bird is extinct. While there have not been any confirmed sightings of the atypical woodpecker since 1944, there was a study released in January by Michael D. Collins, claiming to have video evidence of the rare bird. Its preservation has become a controversial topic as not a soul seems to be able to get a clear photo of the Ivory -Billed Woodpecker, but according to Collins, scientific evidence was recorded that is consistent with this type of woodpecker but opposed the characteristics of any other species in the region at the time the research was conducted.

It could easily be argued that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is the most endangered species out there – if it’s out there at all… The potential re-emergence of this evasive creature has propelled it into superstardom, as the event has even been deemed the ‘birding equivalent of finding Elvis alive’! The fascinating species is indigenous to southern parts of the US and Cuba, but until more evidence comes to light from these regions, the status of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker remains uncertain.

Facts About The Ivory Billed Woodpecker

  • The scientific name of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker is the 'Campephilus Principalis'.
  • The birds are carnivores and will weigh between 16 and 20 ounces.
  • The wingspan of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker reaches up to 31 inches.
  • The enormous white bill of the subspecies of woodpecker is not actually made of ivory but of bone, and were once used for decorative purposes by Native Americans.

The next stunning species on our most endangered list is the Amur Leopard.

the amur leopard

People may normally associate leopards with a golden and rustic African savannah, but this subspecies resides in the snowy, temperate forests of the Primorye Region of the Russian Far East.

Previously this stunning spotted feline roamed across China and Korea but is now obsolete in those areas. In fact, census data suggests that scarily there are roughly only 20 adult Amur leopards alive today. Their survival is exposed to many threats; prey scarcity is the result of habitat fragmentation and hunting so therefore, large populations of the leopards (and tigers) cannot be sustained without fruitful food sources. It is essential that sustainable forest management is exercised in order to preserve animal habitat and allow the ecosystem to successfully operate.

Another threat they face is of course poaching for their kaleidoscopic spotted fur. Agriculture and villages reside in close proximity to the leopard habitat and it is therefore easily accessible, making poaching of the big cats and their prey species a recurring problem. However, actions have been taken as Russia have declared a segment of protected leopard habitat called, the Land of the Leopard National Park.

There are many techniques involved in leopard conservation, and you can read a blogs we wrote about exactly this! See the leopards caught on camera traps that offered invaluable insight to our Zululand Conservation Project on their movement and hunting habits!

You can also volunteer with Big Cats with The Great Projects!

The time has come to shine the spotlight on the lively lemurs of Madagascar!

lemurs pf madagascar

More than 100 distinctive species of lemur exist today and sadly, all subspecies are endangered. Many of us will know that lemurs are indigenous to the island of Madagascar which is situated off the coast of Africa, due to their hilarious portrayal in the Dreamworks movie, ‘Madagascar’.

The world’s most threatened mammal group may like to ‘move it, move it’ but locals hunting them for bush meat, and destruction of lemur habitat has meant there are now sparse populations of the primates in the world. Scientists believe they have a solution to the depletion of the lemur species by preserving their habitat; they plan to present this to world leaders and explain that $7.6 million would have to be invested in international aid to maintain the areas where lemurs live.

Facts about Lemurs!

  • Lemurs are less advanced than humans, apes and monkeys and are therefore the most primitive type of primate.
  • 62 million years ago, they emerged during early primate evolution.
  • Primates that were more astute than lemurs never made it to Madagascar, which in turn allowed the species to evolve into an array of subspecies whose sizes range from as small as a mouse, to as large as a domestic house-cat!
  • Lemurs are nocturnal but sometimes emerge during day time hours.
  • The lemur diet consists of tasty fruits and nuts.

The Northern Right whale is also one of the most endangered animals in the world and in fact, is the most endangered of the whale species.

It resides within the waters of the Atlantic coasts of Canada along with the US.

There are approximately 350 Northern Right whales alive today with a long and sad history of human exploitation, despite judicial protection from whaling since the early 20th century. North Atlantic Right Whales are very laid back marine mammals and swim at a leisurely pace of approximately 10 miles per hour. This is actually a major issue for them as their migration patterns drive them through some of the busiest shipping areas in the world which ultimately leads to often fatal collisions. Over fishing has also become a problem for these kind-natured creatures, along with drilling, other human activities and sonar testing that can cause the whales physical damage.

These creatures are very interactive and curious of humans. While an encounter with this elusive creature is extremely rare due to sparse populations, if and when they do occur, humans walk away enchanted by their magical eyes and personalities. Check out this video from National Geographic, when one of their own encountered a right whale for the very first time.

Facts about the northern right whale

  • The Right whale acquired its title during early whaling times. Due to their moderate pace and innocent curiosity, they had a tendency to linger near to the surface which ultimately made them easy targets and were known to fishermen as the ‘right whale’ to hunt.
  • The northern Atlantic right whale can weigh up to 96,000 KG but females are larger than males; females can reach up to 18 metres in length whereas males can reach up to 12.9 metres.
  • Mother and baby right whales have a very strong bond and remain close to each other at all times. The calf will swim above her back and butt her with its head, and what’s even more adorable is that the mothers will often roll over and hold the calf between her flippers!

You can even volunteer with whales with The Great Projects!

Another extremely vulnerable species is the vivacious Vaquita.

a vaquita most endangered species

This fellow is a species of porpoise found in the gulf of California, in the stretch of the pristine waters between Mexico and Baja California. This elusive animal was not discovered by scientists until 1958, and half a century later they are at risk of permanently slipping through our fingers.

They face threats from fisherman as they become entangled and drown in gillnets of illegal marine operations, even within the protected areas of the gulf. It is estimated that this fascinating subspecies of porpoise could be extinct by 2018 if measures are not taken immediately. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the Vaquita as a new agreement has emerged that includes a permanent ban on gillnets and better, less disturbing technology to be used in vaquita habitat. The new agreement certainly looks promising as it has been signed by the Mexican Government, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Carlos Slim Foundation and is officially supported by WWF.

Facts about the vaquita

  • The eyes of the Vaquita are circled with black rings, and their bodies are grey in colour.
  • Vaquitas use echo location for hunting as they live in murky waters that make it difficult to see prey clearly.
  • Decreased population causes an increase of inbreeding which births weaker species. This is equally detrimental to the sustainability of the vaquita compared to the other threats they face because only the most advanced species will survive evolution.

The next species on our list is the black rhino.

rhino endangered species

With only a few thousand left in the wild, these big and beautiful beasts face threats from climate change and poaching, which has given them a slot on the critically endangered species list. European settlers arrived in Africa in the early 20th century for colonisation and trade reasons and dubbed the species as vermin, eliminating them wherever they could. They would commonly slaughter five or six rhinos a day for food or simply for amusement. In 1961, the front page of the Daily mirror declared rhinos as ‘DOOMED’ due to ‘man’s folly, greed and neglect’ and encouraged readers to support the newly establishing WWF at the time. It is no secret that there are huge price tags on the horns of rhinos due to their apparent ‘medicinal benefits’… now would be a great time to point out, there are NONE. Scientifically, there are no unique benefits from rhino horns in cultivating medicine but nevertheless, they are still brutally slaughtered for traditional beliefs.

Facts about the black rhinoceros

  • There are fewer than 5000 of these solid giants that remain on earth today.
  • The scientific name of a black rhino is 'Diceros Bicornis'
  • They can grow up to 5.2 feet and weigh up to 3,080 lbs.

You can volunteer with rhinos with The Great Projects!

The mesmerising mountain gorilla is yet another stunning species listed as critically endangered today.

what species of gorilla are there

An adaptation of the mountain gorilla is that they have more of, and thicker fur than most of their relatives as they are designed to live in climates where temperatures drop below freezing on a regular basis. They live high up in the mountains at elevations of around 8,000 to 13,000 feet.

These fascinating primates were discovered in 1902 and have certainly not had an easy ride. Most primates tend to be boisterous in nature, so it is no surprise that the aggressive behaviour of the gorillas during their initial discovery was perceived as threatening by locals. As a result, people thought the only way to ensure their own safety was to hunt these animals, and so the plight of the mountain gorillas began.

Habitat loss is another major threat that the mountain gorillas face as humans have relocated further and further into gorilla territory, pushing their habitat further up into the mountains. Higher elevations than their already considerably tall residency forces them into dangerous and often fatal circumstances.

Years of civil unrest throughout the countries in which mountain gorilla habitat exists has also had a negative impact on mountain gorilla populations. Civil disturbances such as the war in Rwanda in the 1990s, and the refugees that have been sent into the Democratic Republic of Congo have also meant the gorillas are collateral damage of human activity once more. Some parts of the region around the Virunga Mountains Parks that are home to more than half of all mountain gorillas have been taken over by rebels leading to hunting, poaching and habitat loss. While mountain gorillas are not poached in particular, they often get ensnared in other poaching traps. The presence of the rebels have made executing conservation efforts difficult and dangerous, and since 1996 140 Virunga rangers have been killed.

However efforts to preserve the species over the years have proved successful so don’t lose all hope yet, as conservationists have successfully increased mountain gorilla populations from 620 in 1989 to approximately 880 today!

Facts about Mountain Gorillas

  • The scientific name of the mountain gorilla is ‘Gorilla Beringei Beringei’.
  • Mountain gorillas can stand between 4- 5.5 feet when standing on two legs and can weigh up to 440 lbs!

You can volunteer with these beautiful creatures on The Great Gorilla Project!

The next animal on our list is the rare Baiji, another aquatic mammal.

what is a baiji

This intriguing creature is found in the Yangtze River in China and is consequently deemed the Yangtze River Dolphin.

Similarly to the ivory billed woodpecker, these fellows were declared extinct in 2006 after a six-week-long fruitless search across the 3,915 miles of waterway that makes up the Yangtze River. However, conservationists spotted an aquatic mammal the following year claiming that no other species but a Yangtze River Dolphin would behave in the way that this creature did. While the conservationists were not specialists, locals who are extremely familiar with the species said they were 100% certain the animal seen was a baiji.

The saola is one of the most elusive creatures in the world.

what is a saola?

Resembling an antelope, the saola is renowned as the Asian Unicorn, a name most likely inspired from the long horns on the top of their heads. Only recently discovered in 1992 between Vietnam and Laos, little has been revealed regarding this enigmatic species. Not one saola resides in captivity and in the decades since its discovery scientists have only officially documented a sighting in the wild just 4 times! Its discovery was deemed one of the most spectacular scientific discoveries of the 20th century as it was the first large mammal that was new to science in over 50 years.

Facts about the Saola

  • The saola is officially pronounced ‘Sow-la’ and they have two very long parallel horns which grow up to 20 inches in length on both males and females. They also have striking white markings on their faces.
  • The exact population of the evasive species is unknown.
  • The saola can measure up to 33 inches in height at the shoulder, and weigh up to 220 lbs.
  • The saola habitat is the stunning Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos.

Another subspecies of gorilla that is listed as critically endangered is the cross river gorilla.

are gorillas endangered?

These great apes are primarily found along the southern Cameroon- Nigerian border and there are roughly 200 - 300 cross river gorillas left. Rightly so, these enchanting primates are wary of humans which has made determining population numbers difficult. Instead scientists have used indicative measures such as estimated range size and nest counts to calculate how many of these apes exist.

The cross river gorilla habitat is in a region with dense populations of humans, who clear gorilla territory for timber and agricultural purposes. WWF are working with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria in an attempt to protect the lands upon which the gorillas nest. With just a small cluster of cross river gorillas out there, losing even two or three of the apes has a disastrous impact on their population numbers.

Facts about the cross river gorilla

  • This subspecies of western gorilla is similar in appearance to its close relatives such as the western lowland gorilla. However, features in the teeth and skull help to distinguish this ape from others like it.
  • The scientific name of the cross river gorilla is 'Gorilla Gorilla Diehli'.
  • They can weigh up to 440 lbs.

The famous leatherback sea turtle is next to be explored on our list of most endangered species.

the leatherback sea turtle

This biggest turtle on earth and can be found all over the globe but is mostly prone to tropical areas. Once upon a time, the leatherback turtle population was around 120,000 but now there are just around 20,000 that remain. Southeast Asia has a culture of legal egg collection which has sadly led to the removal of tens of thousands of eggs; it is this practise along with leatherback turtle hunting, that are the main threats to the species and has caused populations to become obsolete in Malaysia.

Additionally, unfathomable amounts of sea turtles are caught in gillnets, longline hooks and shrimp trawl nets which is all too often fatal for these reptiles as they drown in the nets because they can’t reach the surface to breathe. Unregulated coastal development and other human activities have had a devastating effect on turtle habitat, leaving them with limited areas in which to nest their eggs. If we want to create a sustainable future for these creatures that have inhabited the earth since long before humans, then fishing and development must be controlled and crucial areas of habitat must be protected.

The leatherback turtle is a fundamental joint in the marine ecosystem as they consume jellyfish which helps to moderate population numbers of these marine organisms. They also have economical value as they are a budding attraction for tourists, especially in the Coral Triangle.

Facts about the leatherback sea turtle

  • The scientific name of the leatherback sea turtle is, ‘Dermochelys Coriacea’
  • This sea turtle can weigh up to 15,000 lbs and grow up to 63 inches in length.
  • Marine turtles are living descendants of a group of reptiles that have travelled the oceans for 100 million years.

You can volunteer with sea turtles with The Great Projects!

The Siberian Tiger is another big cat on the list of the most endangered species in the world.

siberian tiger amur tiger russia

The largest cat in the world, the Siberian tiger can be found in Far East China and Korea, and the beautiful birch forest of Russia. They are especially adapted to withstand extreme winter climates where temperatures can drop to as much as -50 degrees F.

Despite it being illegal to hunt the mammals, poaching is still the Siberian Tiger’s biggest threat which dramatically increased with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1940s hunting had driven the Siberian tiger (also known as the Amur tiger) right to the brink of extinction with a population of just 40 individuals resident in the wild. However, Russia became the first country across the entire globe to grant the tiger complete protection. Further conservation initiatives have paid off as population numbers are now reaching around 500 but this is still not enough for future generations to thrive. Experts explain there is a new breed of tiger poachers stalking the big cats in the Russian Far East that have international ties and are much better organised, better armed, better skilled and much more evasive than their predecessors.

Habitat loss caused by illegal logging, urban and agricultural development and much more is the other big threat the tigers are exposed to. Loss of habitat results in prey scarcity as Korean pine and Mongolian oak provide food sources for the prey species preferred by Siberian tigers. Like many other tales of wildlife conservation and campaigns, the eradication of deforestation is vital for the survival of all manner of species.

However, strong conservation efforts are constantly underway, and WWF released a heart warming blog regarding the reintroduction of an Amur tiger back into its natural habitat! You can read this blog here.

Facts about the Siberian Tiger

  • The scientific name of the Siberian Tiger or the Amur tiger is ‘Panthera Tigris Altaica’
  • A Siberian tiger can weigh between 396 – 660 lbs and grow up to 10 feet long

You can volunteer with tigers with The Great Projects!

An amphibian newly discovered to The Great Projects is also on the most endangered animal list and goes by the name of the Giant Chinese Salamander.

what is a giant chinese salamander?

This peculiar creature can grow up to 6 feet in length and is the largest amphibian in the world. Resident in the forested landscapes of China, the country’s natives use this animal as food which has unfortunately led to their endangerment. It is believed the giants are removed from the wild and harvested as a luxury food product, but this has had a catastrophic effect on wild populations which have depleted an unbelievable 80% in the past 50 years.

What the people of China may not be aware of, is that the giant Chinese salamander is a flagship species within China’s freshwater systems: as a tadpole it is efficient aiding the movement of nutrients between biotic and abiotic factors, and as an adult this fascinating species adopts the role of a pest control.

Steps have been taken in attempt to preserve this wonderful animal such as: opening a breeding facility for the animal in China, manageable and sustainable farming, conducting research to understand its current distribution and scientifically understanding the role of the salamander in different river systems and farms.

Facts about the giant Chinese salamander

  • The giant Chinese salamander can lay up to 500 eggs at one time.
  • They lay their eggs in well concealed underwater burrows.

You can volunteer in China with The Great Projects!

The Brown Spider Monkey is yet another animal at risk of extinction.

is the brown spider monkey endangered?

This adorable monkey is found in the region of the Americas and its name was derived from its physical features, like long limbs that help to swing and climb through the trees.

Relentless hunting and the illegal wildlife trade has declined populations to a number of just 60, and these catastrophic acts most commonly occur in Columbia and northwest Venezuela. However, what is even more devastating to the brown spider monkey is deforestation. These primates prefer a habitat of thick, dense and untouched forest where they can freely swing from branch to branch without having to regularly come to the ground. Extensive deforestation in brown spider monkey habitat has not only caused a decrease in population, but has also devastated the primary source of shelter and food for the monkeys.

Unless deforestation can be eradicated, the entire subspecies of the brown spider monkey will become extinct in a very short period of time.

Facts about Spider Monkeys:

  • The tail of the brown spider monkey is flexible enough to be considered an extra limb due to its effortless precision when being used to hang from branches.
  • Many spider monkeys have a white triangular patch on their forehead which helps to differentiate them from other species.
  • Brown spider monkeys also have glistening, pale blue eyes.

You can volunteer in The Americas with The Great Projects!

The Mexican gray wolf is the last but by no means least important animal on our list of the 16 most endangered species in the world.

how many mexican gray wolves are there

This magnificent creature is the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of the gray wolf. Humans pose the greatest threat to these stunning mammals and at one point we literally eliminated the entire wild population (surprise, surprise). Thanks to a fantastic and unprecedented breeding program that brought them back from the brink, today, 340 of these beauties reside in 49 research facilities between the US and Mexico. Mexican gray wolves are responsible for less than 1% of livestock killings, but they are still resented and feared by locals that live near to the recovery areas of southern Arizona and New Mexico, thus illegal killings continue to occur and so the population of the wolves continues to decline. This predator which was once present in the thousands has been all but silenced with threats such as the introduction of the livestock industry, a lack of judicial protection and education regarding the animals, and the rifles, traps and poisons that come with it.

The most recent survey conducted revealed there were approximately just 113 Mexican gray wolves that remain, and if this is to be reversed there needs to be stricter laws and more responsible agricultural practises.

Without these predators, herbivore populations will spiral out of control and negatively impact the fertility of the lands,which is something that we have already seen happen before: after the extirpation of wolves in The Rocky Mountains during the early 20th century, food chains were disrupted and set off what was called a ‘trophic cascade’, where the wolves’ natural prey multiplied and consumed unsustainable amounts of food. The return of the wolves to the park saw the populations of these species (such as elk) decrease and therefore the land was more controlled as the prey would avoid areas where they would be hunted. Quickly these areas that were of ecological importance began to regenerate and the important biodiversity including birds, mice and bears returned.

Facts about the Mexican Gray Wolf

  • The scientific name for the Mexican Gray wolf is ‘Canis Lupus Baileyi’ and known as the ‘lobo’ of southwestern lore.
  • The subspecies of gray wolf grows to be around 25-32 inches tall.
  • The Mexican gray wolf often has distinguishing facial features.

How would you feel if a big scary animal came into your home of thousands of years and took over? Why then, do we feel it is appropriate to do this to hundreds of species of wildlife? Just remember, the only reason we are an apex species is because of guns and thumbs, if we didn’t have these things, we would have been overtaken in evolution years ago. Evolution has made us powerful, and if we eliminate such beautiful and fascinating species, future generations will not evolve and the ecosystems will falter, and so the circle of life on earth will cease to exist.


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