On the brink: Some of the species about to be lost forever due to poaching and loss of habitat

Sunday June 2 2019


Zimbabwe game reserve guide holds "Marimba", a female pangolin at Wild Is Life animal sanctuary in Harare. Asia has been identified as the likely destination for endangered animals. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP 

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On Tuesday, the world received the sad news that the last male Sumatran rhino was dead, leaving behind a sole female that lives in protected rather than natural space.

Last year, the world had received news of the death in Northern Kenya of Sudan, arguably the last surviving white rhino in the world, provoking debate on whether science can do anything to reverse the extinction of spaces like rhinos and scores of others facing extinction in a generation.

Below is a pick of the species human activity and changing ecosystems have consigned to near extinction.

  • The Ethiopian wolf is considered Africa’s most endangered carnivore.

    Domiciled in Bale Mountain National Park, there are only about 500 left. Threats to their survival emanate from loss of habitat, expansion of farmland and diseases contracted from domestic dogs. The Mexican grey wolf also faces the same predicament

  • The Pangolin’s scales are used to produce some traditional medicine in Asia.

    The docile, gentle animal, mainly found in South Africa, is no match for profit-driven illegal traffickers.

  • The grey-coloured black rhinos are classified as critically endangered largely due to poaching for their horn.

    Reports show that there were 5,000 individuals in 2010 and that the number has since declined further despite well publicised conservation efforts. Today, they can be spotted in protected areas of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

  • Mountain gorillas are mainly found in Uganda and Rwanda.

    A census conducted in 2012 revealed that there were a mere 880 left in the whole world; the victims of habitat loss, poaching, lack of genetic diversity and disease.

    Experts say that the lowland gorillas of Western-Central Africa have suffered massive population declines from Ebola outbreaks. The Bonobo and the chimpanzee and the Sumatran orangutan, an ape, also face a similar fate.

  • African wild dogs are said to have been over 500,000 across Africa and would roam in packs of 100.

    Today, experts say that there are fewer than 5,000 remaining, largely in protected areas of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and, to a small extent Kenya. Their main predicament is that they no longer have access to the huge ranges they require for hunting as a result of human settlement.

  • African Penguin, which is endemic to the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, is considered one of the most endangered species in Africa.

    According to the IUCN, its numbers have greatly declined owing to depletion of its main source of food, oil spills and climate change, which has caused fish stocks to move farther west.

  • Rothschild’s Giraffe is one of the nine species of giraffe that are distinguishable by their broader dividing white lines in the skin and lack of spotting below the knees.

    By 2010, there were only 670 individuals left in places such as Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya, Uganda’s Murchison Falls, Lake Mburi and Kidepo Valley national parks. The population of giraffes in general has declined by 40 per cent since 1985 and there are less than one hundred thousand left.

  • The IUCN’s Red List says critically endangered birds face “an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.”

    Globally, some 190 bird species fall in this category, 27 of which breed in Africa. Their survival is threatened by forest clearance habitat loss and degradation, introduction of alien species and predators like monkeys, cats and mice.

  • Sumatran Rhino: The smallest of the rhino species weighing just 960 kilogrammes, their habitat is Sumatra island, Indonesia.

    Some 800 Sumatran rhinos lived in the wild as recently as 1986 but less than 100 now remain thanks to deforestation and poaching. Also facing extinction is the Javan rhino of which there were only 29 individuals on the Indonesia Island of Java in 2012.

  • Cats: The cheetah, tiger, leopard and jaguar species are all threatened by human invasion and poaching.
  • Sea Turtles:From Green to Baulan to Leatherback, the turtle is in serious danger of extinction because of accidental fishing, water contamination and hunting for its shell, meat or eggs.
  • Elephants: The elephants of Sumatra, like those in Africa and Asia, are endangered by deforestation and poaching for their ivory.