May 19, 2008

12 Species on the Brink of Extinction

The Wildlife Conservation Society has released a list of the
"Rarest of the Rare," a dozen animals most in danger of extinction.

The eclectic list includes birds, mammals, fish, reptiles,
amphibians, and insects. Some are well known, such as the northern right
whale and Sumatran rhino,
while others are more obscure, including Abbot's booby, an ocean-going bird
that only nests on Christmas Island.

The animals were highlighted today because it is National
Endangered Species Day. They are:

  • Abbott's
    booby: A large black-and-white seabird that breeds on Christmas Island, a remote
    Australian island in the Indian Ocean.
  • Addax: A nocturnal antelope species with long
    spiral horns, found the sand dunes of the Sahara desert.
  • Angel
    shark: Bottom-dwelling, nocturnal predators once common throughout the
    Northeast Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and Black seas, but now
    critically endangered.
  • Bengal
    : A large terrestrial bustard bird native to Cambodia, Nepal,
    Vietnam, and India.
  • Black-faced lion
    : A small primate that sleeps in tree holes dug out by woodpeckers
    and feeds on insects, fruit, and plants. Discovered on the island of Superagui,
    Brazil, in 1990, there are now only 400 in the wild.
  • Burmese
    roofed turtle: One of Myanmar's seven native turtles, once abundant in the
    major rivers of central and southern Burma, threatened by hunting and egg
  • Dragonflies
    of Sri Lanka: Of the 53 endemic species of dragonfly found in Sri Lanka, at
    least 20 are threatened.
  • Golden
    arrow poison frog: An amphibian native to Panama, threatened by a
    highly-infectious fungal disease.
  • North
    Atlantic right whale: Hunted since the 10th century, only 350 of
    these slow-moving, 220,000-pound (100,000 kg) cetaceans remain.
  • Ricord's
    iguana: A reptile native to two isolated locations in the arid southwestern Dominican
  • Pygmy
    : A small hippo from the Upper Guinean Forest of Liberia,
    Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
  • Sumatran
    rhino: Also known as the hairy or Asian two-horned rhinoceros, fewer than 300
    survive today in the subtropical and tropical dry forests of Indonesia and

Threats to each species vary widely. In the case of Abbot's
booby, the introduction of yellow crazy ants to Easter Island has
severely altered their nesting habitat. Meanwhile, the addax has been severely
impacted by desertification of its habitat and overhunting. Other species
suffer from diseases, as in the case of the golden arrow poison frog, or
poaching for the Chinese medicinal trade, which has reduced the population of
Sumatran rhinos to fewer than 300 individuals.

The 2007 World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List revealed a
continuing rise in the number of species threatened with extinction. Although
only a fraction of all plant and animal species have been evaluated, the number
of species listed as threatened stands at 16,306, an increase of 188 species
since 2006.

"'Rarest of the Rare' is a snapshot of just a handful
of the most critically endangered species that serves to illustrate their
plight and inspire the public to join the fight for their continued
," said Kent Redford, director of the Wildlife Conservation
Society Institute.