Today on World Wildlife Day is an occasion to mark awareness, action, and reflection about issues that affect the biodiversity of our planet. We have seen how the desire of humans to dominate, manipulate and control nature and has caused irreparable harm. We have seen numerous animals and plant species being driven to extinction by us in the last couple of decades alone. This is why, the United Nations General Assembly, on December 20, 2013, fixed March 3 as World Wildlife Day, to encourage the conservation of the natural world. Below, we take a look at five animal species that have become endangered because of human activity:
1. Elephants:One of the most majestic terrestrial creatures of our time, elephants have been classified as endangered. There are reportedly only about 40,000 to 50,000 of them alive in the wild, notes World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Their numbers have primarily declined due to human activities like animal trafficking, poaching for their ivory, trophy hunting and habitat loss. An end to the ivory trade and trophy hunting, especially in African nations, is critical to ensure the survival of both the African and Asiatic Elephants.
2. Lions:The population of wild African lions has come down to a mere 20,000 only. Habitat loss, poaching, human-animal conflicts, bush meat, and canned hunting, where people pay to shoot animals raised in captivity, are all causing a rapid decline in their numbers. Asiatic lions are only found in India and they have been classed as endangered. Despite reports of a rise in their numbers in recent years in India, their genetic diversity has drastically declined, which again threatens the big cats with extinction.
3. Rhinoceros:Rhino numbers have dropped from 5000,000 to only 27,000 in recent times. The main reasons these pachyderms have become endangered is because of poaching and habitat loss. Rhino poaching happens because their horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and is also looked at as a symbol of wealth and status. Recreational hunting has also put the species at risk. The critically endangered sub-species are Sumatran, Javan and black rhinos. The western black rhino is extinct.
4. Gorillas:Only found in the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa, two species of these great apes, the eastern and western gorilla, are both listed as endangered in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Bushmeat and destruction of natural habitat are the key reasons why mountain gorilla populations have declined. Efforts to conserve the species, however, have borne fruit as a 2018 survey found that their numbers were steadily increasing.
5. Vaquita:Thisdolphin-like aquatic mammal, discovered in 1958, is a species of porpoises that have become critically endangered. Their rapidly declining numbers is due to them getting caught in gillnets during illegal fishing practises in the Gulf of Mexico. Only about 10 individuals are known to survive. Efforts to conserve them in captivity have failed.