It is estimated that for every 20 minutes, an animal or plant species becomes extinct, and in the past 50 years, the rate of animal extinction has increased 40 times faster than during the Industrial Revolution period. So what animals will be extinct by 2100?
The world is getting smaller and smaller day by day, and not for the better.
Multiple scientific studies have come forward and suggested that by the end of 2100, almost half of all the world’s species will disappear from planet Earth, creating one of the greatest ecological destruction known to mankind.
It is estimated that for every 20 minutes, an animal or plant species becomes extinct, and in the past 50 years, the rate of animal extinction has increased 40 times faster than during the Industrial Revolution period. Someday not too far down the future, perhaps our great-grandchildren will only be able to see and know about elephants, tigers, and lions through biology books as extinct creatures, which if compared to our generation right now, is like talking about mammoths and dinosaurs.
This is not a scenario from a fiction novel or a television series that we watch for entertainment in our free time. This is an urgent message that has been raised out of concern by dozens of leading biologists from all around the world. It is suggested that many of the world’s largest mammal species could become extinct by 2100 if drastic protection measures are not taken. To prevent that from happening, there must be an effort made by governments and conservation organisations toward ending or reducing the consequences of such problems.
William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and lead author of the Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna journal, published by BioScience, has made some notable remarks of the matter, saying: “The more I look at the trends facing the world’s largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people. It’s time to really think about conserving them because declines in their numbers and habitats are happening quickly.”
In the latest version of IUCN updates for 2020, more than 15,400 animals were listed as threatened – almost double the number in 2007. Image by Statista.
To go deeper into the alarming situation, we need to see the statistics of the matter; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently reported a list of organisms and species in need of urgent protection, respectively: amphibians (40% of species are on the verge of extinction), leafy plants cones (34%), corals (33%), sharks – rays (31%), crustaceans (27%), mammals (25%), birds (14%). And among the rising factors affecting the survival of organisms and animal species, severe habitat shrinkage is at the top of the list.
Below is the list of 10 animals that need to be paid close attention to, or else the plausibility of them being wiped off the Earth’s surface in a century from now is just as real as the world we are living in.
What Animals Will Be Extinct By 2100?
Currently, there are about 20,000 white rhinos in Africa, classified as Near Extinction according to the IUCN. Sadly, the last remaining wild population of the northern white rhino subspecies will soon become extinct, as only two females remain in captivity. Africa still has about 5,000 black rhinos, classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The western black rhino subspecies were confirmed to be extinct in November 2011. Three species of rhino, black, Javan, and Sumatran, are also critically endangered. Today, a small population of Javan rhinos is found only in one national park on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Java.
White rhinos photographed in South Africa. (Image: Shannon Wild)
Rhino poaching increased in the 1970s and 1980s due to the high demand for rhino horns in Asia and the Middle East. Rhino poaching is the biggest threat to rhino populations. Countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia still have a huge demand for rhino horns. They are said to be a panacea, as well as a symbol of power that many royal and noble individuals desire.
Meet the real-life unicorn: the saola. The origin story of its preferred nickname “Asian Unicorn” stemmed from Bill Robichaud, the President of the Sao La Foundation for Annamite Mountains Conservation, as he was amazed by the creature’s peaceful nature and its willingness to eat directly from his hand. But most notably, when seen from the side, a saola’s horns merge into one. Besides the idiosyncratic name, this creature truly has a unique upbringing and physical features. It is one of the rarest mammals in the world, living only in the remote mountainous areas of Central Truong Son Vietnam and Southern Laos, with a length of about 1.3-1.5m; 0.9m tall, and weighs about 100kg. The “Asian Unicorn” has dark brown fur, with long and slender horns that are up to 51cm long.
Scientists have categorically documented Saola in the wild on only four occasions to date. Image by WWF.
Poaching, combined with deforestation for agriculture, logging and infrastructure projects such as roads, mines and hydroelectric power plants, create a dangerous threat for soala as they live among other endangered species. More often than not, they get caught in traps set for animals with more value than them in the market. Deforestation remains a threat to any animal living in remote areas, and due to the small population size and scattering habits, it is also difficult for females and males to locate each other for mating. Furthermore, with the lack of resources and attention for conservation, makes this one of the animals that could go extinct by 2100.
Cat Ba Langur
The white-headed langur, or Cat Ba langur is on the list of 25 most endangered animals in the world and is listed in the critically endangered section of the IUCN Red List. It is the rarest primate in Asia, and can only be found in the Cat Ba archipelago. According to the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project, in the 1960s, there were about 2,500-2,700 langurs on Cat Ba Island. Locals say they can see langurs everywhere on the island, with some getting poached and hunted. In 1999, the Cat Ba langur population declined to an alarming level, forcing a number of German organisations to come together and establish the Cat Ba Langur Conservation project in 2000 to prevent the extinction of the Cat Ba langur species. At that time, only 40 individuals remained. Currently, Cat Ba langur is on the brink of extinction, with only about 65 – 67 individuals recorded in existence.
This species is one of the most endangered primates in the world. Image by vspiritcruises.
Daniela Schrudde, Director of the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project, affirmed that despite great efforts, as a result of low awareness of nature protection in Cat Ba Island, the hunting and wildlife trade situations are still very complicated to handle. Meanwhile, the prevention of illegal hunting and exploitation of forests has so far not been met with any radical measures. This is a dangerous threat to the langur species in Cat Ba in particular, and other rare and wild animals in the region.
According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), large storms in 2017 and 2018 occurred continuously, claiming the lives of a series of young penguins in this area. Research by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (US) shows that the number of individuals in emperor penguin populations will decline by at least 19% by 2100. About two-thirds of the current 45 emperor penguin populations are at risk of more than a 50% decline, and about one-fifth of the population faces “near extinction”, the research suggested. The reason being is due to global warming that is causing the ice area in Antarctica to decrease. Melting ice will affect the reproduction and rearing of emperor penguins since their activities mainly take place on sea ice. Moreover, melting ice also affects fish and krill, which are the main food of emperor penguins.
Emperor penguins regurgitate their food to feed their chicks. Photograph by Bernard Breton/Dreamstime.
However, the degree of individual decline in emperor penguin populations varies. Penguin populations living in areas from the Eastern Weddell Sea to the Western Indian Ocean are most likely at risk of decreasing, while populations living in the Ross Sea will be less affected. Scientists are now calling for the emperor penguin to be listed as “endangered” (threatened from extinction) in the Red List of the IUCN. Concurrently, it has proposed the establishment of a marine reserve in the Ross Sea and off the eastern coast of Antarctica as a way to restrict tourism and fishing activities in this area in order to preserve the habitat of the species.
The government of Mexico announced on July 14 2021 new measures to protect the critically endangered vaquita dolphin, claiming it to be one of the rarest marine mammals in the world right now. Mexico has long faced pressure to come up with more solutions to protect the vaquita, the world’s smallest dolphin species with the nickname “ocean panda” for its distinctive black circle around the eyes. Conservationists estimate that there are only 10 vaquita dolphins left in the wild, and the number is dropping fast.
This dolphin species is reported to be on the verge of extinction due to the amount of illegal fishing in the Gulf of California. The new rules, according to Mexico’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Commission, are said to aim at enhancing the power to monitor fishing activities in the northern Gulf of California, the only place on Earth where vaquita dolphins are found. At more depth, it can partially or completely ban fishing boats from operating in the Gulf of California for up to one month if such hunting activities are found. The committee also stressed the importance of protecting the core zone of the reserve, where all commercial fishing is prohibited.
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Found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, the Bornean orangutan is a wonderful, but critically endangered animal. The word “orangutan” comes from the Malay word “orang”, which indicates people, and “hutan” indicates the forest. In full translation, it means “wild man”, and this is a species in which we share 97% of our DNA with. Having paw-like hands, orangutans are extremely dexterous and agile, moving easily from tree to tree. Like their counterpart, orangutans have large brains and physical abilities that we can consider as “human” like; they know how to use tools such as sticks to catch termites, ants and bees out of holes in the tree. It has also been observed that they make their own gloves out of leaves to protect their hands from thorny branches or rough-skinned fruits. Orangutans even know how to use large leaves to cover their heads as umbrellas when it rains.
Despite being very resilient in making use of their surrounding resources, the orangutan population is decreasing due to deforestation causing them to lose their habitat. Estimates suggested that there are currently between 57,000 and 100,000 Borneo orangutans in the wild, less than 14,000 compared to Sumatran orangutans, and fewer than 800 compared to Tapanuli orangutans. There are many causes of deforestation in the region, including illegal logging, palm oil extraction, mining, agricultural expansion, and these are activities that are taking place on a large scale. In less than 40 years, Borneo has lost 10 million hectares, or in other words, 39% of the island’s primary forest. All this combined with climate change, which causes forest fires to occur more and more frequently, is threatening the orangutan population.
The Amur leopard is also known as the Far Eastern leopard due to its habitat of only living in between the Russian Far East and China. Renowned for being a predator with an insanely fast speed and the ability to jump high from the trees, the Amur leopard is a fearsome enemy of many wild creatures. A professional hunter, running speed up to 60km/h, they can jump from trees with a height of 6m, and they have the loudest roar among leopards. But now, the species is in need of help, it has a 90% risk of extinction due to starvation and habitat loss. The number of Amur leopards left in the wild is estimated at only about 30-35 individuals.
In 1996, this species was listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. From that time forward, with multiple protection efforts, the number of individuals in recent years has increased but is still insignificant. This is partly attributed to the fact that this species has an incredibly slow reproduction rate; each time they give birth, no more than three individuals are born, and the gestation period lasts about three months, in which the mortality rate is as high as 50%, with only one to two newborns able to live to adulthood. Today, about 500 Amur leopards live in the taiga areas of eastern Russia, and in northeastern China. Although its populations have remained relatively stable in recent years due to multiple conservation efforts from international organisations, the unchanging scarce number of species keeps them on the endangered species list of the IUCN up to this moment.
In 2011, the IUCN listed the Sumatran elephant as critically endangered and over the past two decades, the species population has decreased by about 35%, from about 2,652 to 1,724 individuals, according to information from WWF Indonesia. There are two main reasons that drive the Sumatran elephant to the brink of extinction. Firstly, due to the shrinking habitat; forests are being converted into residential areas, agricultural production, and plantations, which in turn often leads to deaths related to conflict and fragmentation of the elephant populations. Secondly, Sumatran elephants are still a target of poaching due to their tusks.
As recently as July 2021, a male Sumatran elephant, estimated to be about 12 years old, was brutally killed for its tusks at a palm oil plantation of the Sumatra island, located in western Indonesia. The creature’s remains were found on July 11 with its head cut off and tusks missing. Autopsy results suggested that poachers may have poisoned the animal before brutally killing it, and although the scene is considered disturbing, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Multiple poisonings have been reported in recent years on the island of Sumatra, including one case where an elephant was also decapitated with its ivory removed in 2019. Conservationists warn that if this poaching still continues, Sumatran elephants could become extinct in less than 10 years.
The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving tiger species of the Sunda Islands and has been classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2008. According to an estimate made by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry in December 2018, the Sumatran tiger population has no more than 600 individuals left, and is facing risks such as habitat loss and poaching. Sumatran tigers are in great demand in the illegal trade market, where animal parts are valued for local medicinal and souvenirs purposes. The entire body of a tiger can cost $10,000, which motivates poachers on the island that are unable to find legitimate work that provides the same pay. Although the Sumatran tigers are protected from global human trafficking, they are still experiencing political instability and lack the necessary resources to enforce protections. In addition, many tigers have been killed by locals, who consider them a threat to both the animals on the farm and their people.
Habitat loss as a result of deforestation, especially at lower altitudes, is another significant threat to the remaining Sumatran tiger population. Deforestation, which occurs to make space for palm oil production, leads to the destruction and fragmentation of tiger habitats. Other factors that contribute to deforestation are population growth and urban development. Multiple researchers reported that this tiger species will soon be restricted to just 20% of the remaining forest area in Sumatra. This loss of habitat also leads to a decrease in the number of other animals that are the food source of the Sumatran tigers.
Dolphins without dorsal fins are one of the many animals that could be extinct by 2100. The speices is native to China and have lived there for 25 million years. They are the only freshwater species of the finless dolphin family that live in the middle and lower of Yangtze rivers. With a fixed mouth in the form of a permanent smile, the Yangtze finless dolphin is known in China as “smiling angels”. Research on finless dolphins conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in 2017 shows that there is a wild population of just 1,012 finless dolphins still swimming through the bends of Asia’s longest river, a number that is even less than the Giant Panda. The annual decline of the Yangtze river dolphin population was about 13.7% between 2006-2012, and dropped to 10% between 2012 and 2017.
A Yangtze river dolphin swims in China. Photograph by Avalon.
In January 2018, a fishing ban was implemented in 83 aquatic nature reserves across Hubei in order to restore the ecological environment and protect endangered species in the Yangtze River basin. To further conserve biodiversity along the river, in January 2020, China implemented an expanded fishing ban across 332 protected areas in the same region. The move was later extended to a 10-year moratorium on the river’s main streams, with tributaries effective from January 1, 2021. A series of protective measures have brought the “smiling angels” back to the public’s attention. Officers at the local fisheries administration in Yichang recently even filmed a video of a finless dolphin hunting fish, claiming it was the first in many years that they have seen this happen. “Such a sight shows that the finless dolphin population is recovering,” said one of the staff members.
One Extinct Species Could Threaten the World
According to the laws of nature, if one species disappears, another species will form. The rate of species formation is usually equal to or higher than the rate of extinction so that the natural world is always balanced and evolved. So why should we care so much about animal extinction?
In prehistoric times, it was always natural disasters that caused the extinction of a species. But nowadays, researchers have more evidence to believe that more than 99% of animal extinctions are caused by humans – a species that always wants to assert its dominance over other species. Human exploitation of natural resources such as indiscriminate hunting, deforestation, overuse of arable land, pollution of water surface, drying of lakes and ponds, is destroying the environment. Unsustainable tourism activities, unplanned construction, exploitation from industrial activities have created sources of harmful emissions that make the climate warmer; creating holes in the ozone layer is a direct threat to life on Earth.
In recent years, people from around the world have continuously suffered from unexpected natural disasters such as storms, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes, killing tens of thousands of people per year. That is only part of the price that humans have to pay for the way they have treated nature. It is clear that we as a society need to be aware that our destruction and unsustainable development are increasingly affecting our own lives and futures. If we only look at the short-term benefits, in the long run, humanity will have to take on enormous and unpredictable damages that we aren’t prepared for yet.