The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has just released its list of threatened species to watch in 2009.
The list, entitled 9 to Watch in 2009, is a list of animals that could be on the verge of extinction.
Included in the list are well-known animals such as tigers, rhinos, elephants and pandas.
WWF says that these species are at greater risk than ever before because of poaching, habitat loss and climate change-related threats.
Tom Dillon, WWF’s senior vice president for Field Programs warns that these creatures could become extinct if we don’t do something to save them.
“If we don’t get serious about saving these spectacular species, it’s quite likely that many won’t be around in the years to come,” he said.
“The potential loss of some familiar and beloved wildlife should be a wake-up call that immediate action must be taken if we want to live in a world with wild elephants, polar bears, and tigers.” he continued.
Mr Dillon wants to see a major effort to save these animals in 2009.
“At the dawn of the new year, our global resolution for 2009 should be to save these amazing species before it’s too late.”
The 9 Species to Watch in 2009
According to WWF, the 9 species to watch in 2009 are:
- Javan Rhinoceros
Population: Less than 60
Location: Indonesia and Vietnam
Probably the rarest large mammal species in the world, the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is critically endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose greatest risk to the two protected areas where they live.
Location: Upper Gulf of California, Mexico
The world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is a tiny porpoise that is often killed in gillnets. This mammal could soon be extinct.
Other names for Vaquita include “Cochito”, “Gulf of California Harbor Porpoise”, “Gulf of California Porpoise”, “Gulf Porpoise”, “Hafenschweinswal”, and “Marsouin du Golfe de Californie”.
- Cross River Gorilla
Location: Nigeria and Cameroon.
Possibly the world’s rarest ape, the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) was once thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1980s. This primate, a subspecies of the western gorilla, lives in the few remaining forest patches of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon.
But as its forests are opened up by timber companies, hunters move in. Pressure on forests for farming and logging, and on gorillas for bushmeat, is intense in this area.
- Sumatran Tiger
Location: Sumatra, Indonesia
The Javan and Balinese tigers are already extinct and the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is not far behind. Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push the Sumatran tiger to extinction within a short space of time.
Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized.
- North Pacific Right Whale
Population: Unknown, but less than 500
Location: Northern Pacific, U.S., Russia and Japan
The North Pacific Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica) is one of the world’s rarest cetaceans and was almost hunted to extinction until the 1960s. The large mammal is rarely sighted and has a poor prognosis for survival due to collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets and the prospect of offshore oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
- Black-Footed Ferret
Population: 500 breeding adults
Location: Northern Great Plains, U.S. and Canada
Found only in the Great Plains, the Black-Footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. This is because its primary prey, the prairie dog, has been nearly completely wiped out by ranchers who consider it a nuisance.
The Black-Footed Ferret is actually recovering from a near brush with extinction. In 1986, it was thought that only 50 individuals remained. Since then, captive breeding and reintroduction has showed signs that the species is slowly recovering.
- Borneo Pygmy Elephant
Population: Perhaps fewer than 1,000
Location: Borneo, Malaysia
The Borneo Pygmy Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant and is found in northern Borneo. The smallest of all elephants, it must compete with logging and agriculture for space in the lowland forests of Borneo.
The Borneo Pygmy Elephant is also known as simply the Borneo Elephant.
- Giant Panda
The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces.
Restricted and degraded habitat is the greatest threat to the giant panda. It once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict the giant panda to the mountains. Also, its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations.
- Polar Bear
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus), is the world’s largest predator found on land. It’s native habitat is the Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas.
The greatest threat to the polar bear today is climate change. Designated a threatened species by the U.S., if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace, polar bears could become extinct within a century.
To find out more about what WWF is doing to protect these animals, see the 9 Species to Watch in 2009.