For this list, we’re looking at animals that are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, that many people may not realize are facing extinction. 

  1. The domesticated water buffalo, or Bubalus bubalis, is perhaps the most common livestock in many parts of the world, and number over 130 million across the globe. However their wild ancestor, Bubalus arnee, numbers less than 4000. That population has been quickly declining as their number has been cut in half over the past three generations. Reasons for their weakening numbers include hunting, natural predators and habitat loss. There’s also the problem of interbreeding and competition for resources with domestic water buffalo. And so far, finding a way to rescue the wild water buffalo has proved to be a major challenge.

  2. Catching a glimpse of these tiny birds can make just about anyone’s day, but a large number of them are in danger of vanishing. Dozens of hummingbird species across North, Central and South America are endangered, with many classified as critically endangered. Some, like the buff-winged starfrontlet, are categorized of “least concern” when it comes to conservation status, but species like the dusky starfrontlet are so rare; it can be years or even decades between sightings – meaning, a number of species may already be extinct. For almost every species, the cause of their endangered status is once again habitat loss, with deforestation destroying most of the area they once called home. 

  3. Despite being one of the most popular attractions in zoos around the world, gorillas are actually on the verge of extinction. Both of the existing species, the eastern gorilla and western gorilla, are critically endangered with their numbers thinned by disease, poaching, and rapid loss of habitat. One of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, gorillas are both highly intelligent and social, and they develop strong familial bonds and emotions and use tools in the wild. 

  4. Over twenty species of butterfly around the world are in danger of becoming extinct, with even the famous monarch butterfly facing possible endangered status. The butterfly that makes our list however is the Mission blue butterfly. Native to the San Francisco Bay Area, this subspecies only exists in six specific locations, since much of their original habitat was destroyed. The survival of the Mission blue is directly tied to specific lupine plants of the area, which the butterfly needs to lay its eggs and subsequently for its caterpillars to feed on. As these plants disappear, so does the butterfly. 

  5. Typically leopards aren’t associated with the snow, but this subspecies has adapted to living in the incredibly cold temperatures of northeastern Asia. While most leopards are at least considered vulnerable, due primarily to illegal hunting for their spotted coats, the Amur leopard is teetering on the brink of extinction. Poaching, along with factors like deforestation and urban development, has cut their numbers in the wild down to between 30 and 70. Likewise, their habit – which once comprised a huge chunk of Asia, including the entire Korean peninsula – has been drastically reduced to a small area along the Chinese-Russian border. 

  6. It’s fairly well known that the blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have lived. What isn’t as well known is that there aren’t a lot of them left. Until the turn of the twentieth century, these whales were abundant in every ocean on the planet, but decades of whaling nearly destroyed them completely. It wasn’t until 1966 that hunting blue whales was banned internationally, although this practice was continued illegally into the ‘70s by the Soviet Union. Even after decades of prosperity, their numbers are still under 1% of their pre-whaling population. 

  7. While dolphins are famous in the ocean, and to a lesser extent, the rivers of South America, these freshwater dolphins exist in the rivers of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Just like their saltwater cousins, the South Asian river dolphin are plagued by fishing nets – yet that’s far from the only threat to this highly intelligent animal. Still hunted for their oil and meat, they also face threats from water pollution. But the thing that threatens them the most is the depth of their rivers and sandbars, which are caused by dams. Luckily, there are those trying to save the species, with a number of habitats and sanctuaries created for the dolphins. 

  8. Sea lions are an adorable sight along coastlines all over the world, but it might surprise some to learn that Australia’s numbers are strikingly low. Mass hunting by Europeans went unchecked until the 1920s, and it was not until the ‘70s that harvesting was officially banned. Unfortunately, commercial fishing continues to deplete their food sources to this day, further hurting their numbers. Their survival is not helped by their unusual breeding cycle, which occurs in 18-month increments and is relatively complex. Also, once a mother has a baby, she refuses to feed her older pups, though they still need her milk, adding to a high mortality rate. 

  9. Out of all the animals on our list, this one’s status is the most dire. Shockingly this tiger is actually believed to be completely extinct in the wild, with no sightings since the 1970s. With its natural range essentially wiped out, the tiger now exists only in captivity and is considered “functionally extinct.” There were only roughly 4,000 in the wild in 1950, when the Chinese government declared it a “pest” to be hunted down. Today, all remaining members of the species have been bred in captivity. However there is hope, as plans to reintroduce them to the wild are underway in South Africa. 

  10. Although the gators in the American southeast are so common that they occasionally end up in swimming pools in Florida, their Chinese cousins are found in astoundingly low numbers. Smaller and fully armored, this gator only lives in a minuscule area in eastern China. With their wetland habitat destroyed for rice paddies, the Chinese alligator is considered critically endangered, meaning that they’re classified as being at a very high risk of extinction. Tragically, even in areas still habitable to these gators, they’re still in danger: poachers hunt them for their meat, which is believed to cure anything from the common cold to cancer in traditional Chinese medicine. 

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