As any kid can tell you, some animals just exude personality. Unfortunately, many of these engaging animals are facing the threat of extinction. Even with protected status, some endangered species continue to be hunted by poachers. In other cases, threatened species are dwindling in number because climate change and human behavior are decimating their habitats. Saving these species means saving an important part of our earth we can never get back.
The Bengal tiger is an animal that has captured the imaginations of humans for centuries. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are fewer than 3,000 of these majestic animals left in the wild. Bengal tigers live mainly in the Sundarbans region of northern India, which is continually under threat from rising sea levels. A few can still be found in Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar, as well. Hunting and illegal animal trade also threaten this magnificent species.
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The western lowland gorilla resides in the jungles of Africa, in areas like Angola, Cameroon, Congo, and Gabon. One of the world's most critically endangered species, this mammal faces a considerable threat to existence because of habitat loss—largely due to civil unrest. Illegal poaching and disease also continue to threaten this iconic species.
The blue whale is the largest mammal on the planet, weighing in at an average of 200 tons. This creature is threatened by habitat loss, habitat toxicity, and ship strikes. Fishing nets are also possible for reducing this species' numbers. Even though commercial whaling has been outlawed, climate changes have increased to not only directly affect the blue whale, but also the prey it feeds on, most notably krill.
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African wild dogs are facing a serious threat to their existence. Because the dogs themselves are a threat to livestock, humans frequently hunt them. Disease and loss of habitat have also taken a toll on wild dog populations. Many organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, are working to establish protective reserves in counties like Tanzania and Mozambique.
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The orangutans of Borneo make their home in lowland forests and peat swamps. Famously referred to as the "red ape," orangutans are highly social creatures that, sadly, are losing their jungle homes. Forest decimation is the leading cause of their reduced numbers, and some societies hunt them for food. Disease and the illegal pet trade have also taken their toll on orangutan numbers.
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While African elephants are struggling and listed as a vulnerable species, the Asian elephant is faced with the most serious threat. Habitat loss is the main problem these elephants face, but even in areas where their habitat is intact, poaching remains an issue. In spite of the international trade ban on ivory, local and black market trade still exists. Efforts to combat illegal poaching are underway, but more work needs to be done to protect these thoughtful creatures.
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People love to eat bluefin tuna, and they're willing to pay a premium to do it. Overfishing has led to the bluefin tuna's placement on the endangered species list. In spite of strict regulations, these animals are still overfished. As their numbers dwindle, their prices continue to skyrocket, and people still demand them. Conservationists warn that if overfishing is not controlled, these creatures are likely to be taken off the menu entirely—for good.
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Found in the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, the Amazon pink river dolphin is one of the world's most unique creatures. Dams and pollution are now threatening these dolphins and wreaking havoc on their numbers. The cetaceans were once abundant but are now scarce in many native areas.
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Poaching has decimated the black rhino population. Today, the species is "critically endangered." By the 1990s, poaching for this animal's sought-after horn had reduced its numbers to fewer than 2,500. While conservationists and protective measured have helped bring those numbers up by a couple thousand, the threat to these mighty creatures still exists. Black rhinos are native to Eastern and Southern Africa, where they still face threats from poachers.
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The lovable giant panda has long been the face of endangered species. Although still vulnerable, this species has demonstrated what conservation efforts can do. Panda numbers have increased. Even though deforestation still threatens this creature's native habitat, China has created more than 50 reserves where pandas can live and thrive. The problem may not be solved, but efforts to save these cuddly looking bears is paying off.
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