Dear friends, we share planet Earth with millions of other species of plants and animals. Many of these species, especially animals, are in danger of disappearance or dying out completely in the near future. Once they become extinct, they are gone forever.
To protect and save these endangered creatures, “World Endangered Species Day” is celebrated each year on the third Friday of May, by animal welfare organisations. This year the day was celebrated on May 19, which was yesterday.
As these animals are our fellow dwellers of this planet, we need to know who are suffering and in danger of disappearing forever. Let’s check that out today, so here is an introduction of some endangered species.
Indus River dolphins
The blind Indus River dolphins are one of only four river dolphin species in the world that spend all of their lives in freshwater.
The beak of the Indus River dolphin is prominent, swollen at the tip and quite long, reaching 20 per cent of their body length, with large, visible teeth. Due to poor eyesight, they rely on their sharp voice to sense and map the environment around them. They get their food on the river bed.
The critically endangered blind dolphins are found in River Indus and it is said that there are only about 1,100 today in the lower parts of the river. Their numbers declined dramatically after the construction of an irrigation system.
The green turtle is cold-blooded animal, which lives in tropical and subtropical oceans. They have beautiful green hue on their skin. Their outer hard heart-shaped shell is wide and brownish olive colour. The inside of the shell is yellow. They cannot pull their head into the body.
When young, it feeds on crabs, jellyfish and other small creatures. But when it reaches adulthood, it becomes herbivores and eats sea grasses and algae.
Female turtles lay eggs on beaches and Sandspit, in Karachi, is a famous green turtle nesting beaches. These turtles are in danger due to the demand of their meat and eggs, which is considered as delicacies.
The red-crowned crane
These endangered birds are among the tallest birds in the world. Cranes are highly social birds and live in large flocks. They have long neck and legs, and large round wings. They have white plumage, with black secondary feathers.
During flight, their body forms a straight line from bill to toes, portraying a beautiful, elegant image. They live in deep water marshes of Japan, China and Russia. They eat snails, small fish, frogs, insects and snakes.
The long bill is useful in helping them survey the water for preys. They are famous for their dance. During their dance, they jerk, bounce, leaping up in the air and run wildly with outstretched wings.
The fossil records and prehistoric cave paintings show that red crowned bird is a primitive bird and existed 37 to 54 million years ago. Today, they are threatened mainly due to loss of habitat which are gradually being turned into farms or housing sites.
These giant animals are critically endangered species. They are the residents of the plain forest in Sumatra, western Indonesia, close to rivers.
Bananas, ginger and young bamboo leaves are their favourite foods. Their current population in the wild is around two to three thousand only. Deforestation and economic development has badly affected their habitat and population.
The innocent, playful and heavyweight panda bear is an animal well-known to most children. It has large, prominent, black patches around its eyes. Its legs are smaller than other bears. Its front legs are longer than the back legs.
Bamboo is the love of their life as they spend approximately 12 hours of the day eating bamboo. They also eat carrots, apples and some insects. A panda spends most of its time eating and sleeping.
Giant pandas live in the mountains of south-western China, in damp, misty forests of bamboo. Fast urban development of China, destruction of forests and the hunting of pandas have made it difficult for them to survive. Today, only around 1,600 giant pandas are estimated to survive on Earth.
These are the world’s only scaly mammals and believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world. They live in tropical forests, dry woodlands and the savannah.
There are four species of pangolins in the world, of these four are Asian while four are African. The body of a pangolin is completely covered with scales made of keratin. They can bend into a tight ball, with the scales out. This serves as a defence system to ward off predators. They feed on ants and termites, which they pick up with their long, sticky tongues.
Virtually no information is available on population levels of any species of pangolin as they are rarely observed due to their secretive, solitary and nocturnal habits. However, all species are thought to be in decline, with some more rapidly so than others — particularly the Asian species. Human rustlers are the main danger to the species. According to an estimate, more than a million pangolins have been taken from the wild in the past decade.
The total body length of most snow leopards is between 86cm to 125cm. Their beautiful spotted skin change with the seasons — it is white and thick with fur that camouflages them in the snow in winter, while it turns to a fine yellow-grey coat in summer. Their tail is extra long, about 80 to 105 centimetres. It helps them to keep balance in rough mountainous regions and curls around the body to save the leopard from the severe cold.
This elegant animal typically lives in extreme high altitude and cold climate. Unlike other tigers and lions, snow leopards cannot give a full and deep roar. It is because of the under-development of the fibro-elastic tissue that forms part of the vocal apparatus.
They live in the high mountains of the Karakoram and the Hindukush. They are mainly found in Baltistan, Chitral, Gilgit, Upper Swat Valley, and the Slopes of Nanga Parbat.
They are critically endangered species, over the past 20 years, their numbers have declined by at least 20 per cent.
The saola is also referred to as the Asian unicorn because it is so rarely seen. There are thought to be no more than several hundred of them remaining in several isolated areas of tropical forest along the border between Vietnam and Laos.
Related to cattle but resembling an antelope, the saola has brown with white patches on its head and face, with a pair of straight, spindly horns. It can grow up to three feet and weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kilos).
It was first spotted in 1992, and has only been seen a few times. Illegal hunting and trapping are the main factors for its extinction, though deforestation is also an important factor.
The Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is the most endangered of the world’s five rhinoceros species, with an estimated 40-60 animals remaining on the western tip of the Island of Java (Indonesia) in Ujung Kulon National Park.
The last member of another tiny population in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park was killed by poachers in 2011. The water- and swamp-loving Javan rhinoceros were once found throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia, but due to excessive hunting for their prized horn, which is used to make folk medicines, they are now almost extinct.
Despite being protected now, the extreme low numbers will probably see this species becoming extinct soon.
It may come as a surprise to some of you but the various subspecies of this large cat are on the verge of extinction and many have become extinct, such as the Caspian, Javan, Balinese, and South China tigers. All this has been the result of human activity — ruthless hunting and habitat loss.
The five subspecies that remain are the Amur, or Siberian tiger, the Bengal tiger, the Indochinese tiger, the Malayan tiger, and the Sumatran tiger. All of these tigers live in parts of Asia, and are estimated to be fewer than 3,000 in number.
The main driver of this looming extinction is the insatiable appetite for tiger bones, skins, eyes and other body parts in China and Vietnam, where tiger organs are used to make an array of traditional medicines.
The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a very rare leopard subspecies that lives only in the remote and snowy northern forests of eastern Russian’s Primorye region. Earlier it was found in regions of Korea and northern China, but it is now extinct in those countries.
A 2007 census counted only 14-20 adult Amur leopards and five to six cubs. Threats facing the species include habitat loss due to logging, road building and encroaching civilisation, poaching (illegal hunting) and global climate change.
Published in Dawn, Young World, May 20th, 2017