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Animal species that may become extinct in our lifetime

  • Animal species that may become extinct in our lifetime

    The planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction, one that began about 15,000 years ago, according to the scientific community. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimates we lose around 10,000 species every year worldwide, at least 1,000 times the natural extinction rate (or, the rate of extinction occurring outside of human impact). 

    The western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011, followed in March of 2018 by the last living male northern white rhinoceros. Just two female northern whites remain, spelling the end of the white rhino altogether unless assisted reproduction can successfully step in. But these rhinos are hardly alone; poaching, environmental changes, loss of habitat, overuse of natural resources, and many other factors mean some species of animals currently roaming the planet may not be around by the time today’s babies reach adulthood.

    The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) tracks the conservation status of many species and rates them from “critically endangered” to “least concern.” While tree kangaroos and brown bears are faring well in terms of population numbers, specific varieties of rhinos, gorillas, and tigers are at the highest risks for extinction—followed close behind by certain whales, dolphins, and turtles. 

    To identify the animal species that may become extinct in our lifetimes, Stacker examined data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as well as the World Wildlife Foundation. Any animal listed as “critically endangered” was considered eligible for extinction in the near future. For this list, an animal is defined as being a member of the phylum Chordata, which includes mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

    Read on to learn of animals facing potential extinction. 

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  • Hawaiian land snail (Achatinella fuscobasis)

    The Achatinella fuscobasis is a species of air-breathing snail found only in Hawaii, and specifically on the island of Oahu. Also called the Oahu tree snail, this species has been in steep decline due to loss of habitat, predators, and overcollection.

    Another species of Hawaiian land snail, Achatinella apexfulva, went extinct in January of 2019 when George, a solo captive at a University of Hawaii at Mānoa breeding facility, passed away. The value snails bring to an ecosystem is expansive; from providing nourishment to predators and keeping organisms lower on the food chain in check to providing decomposition of organic matter like fungus.

    [Pictured: Achatinella apexfulva]

  • Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)

    This massive fish, descended from prehistoric creatures, is prized for its caviar. Illegal fishing in its native Russian and Iranian habitats as well as dam construction has led to a rapid decline of the Russian sturgeon population over the past 45 years. Unless major conversation efforts are undertaken to restock naturally, the wild population of this species will soon be gone.

  • Short-nosed sea snake (Aipysurus apraefrontalis)

    In the 1990s, this was the third most-recorded variety of sea snake. Today, they’re nearly impossible to find. Biologists think coral bleaching may be to blame, as the short-nosed sea snake lives exclusively on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is suffering greatly from the effects of global warming.

  • Leopard rocket frog (Aromobates leopardalis)

    The leopard rocket frog lives in a tiny area of the Venezuelan Andes mountains smaller than 10 square kilometers. Biologists believe their numbers are decreasing due to an infectious disease called chytridiomycosis. There’s a small population of leopard rocket frogs that live in the protected Sierra Nevada National Park in the Venezuelan state of Mérida, so there’s a chance that conservation efforts can help the population survive.

    [Pictured: leopard frog]

  • Namoroka leaf chameleon (Brookesia bonsi)

    This chameleon only exists on the humid side of the Namoroka nature preserve in the northwestern part of Madagascar. It’s currently illegal to remove this species from its location, but farming and wood-harvesting are impacting its habitat and leading to a decrease in its population. Limestone reserves surrounding the preserve prevent most human encroachment, but as the habitat continues to decline, so too will the Namoroka leaf chameleon.

    [Pictured: Brookesia brunoi]

  • Mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus)

    Native to Southeastern Australia, the mountain pygmy possum is the only Australian mammal confined to an alpine environment. Road construction and the skiing industry are to blame for the decreasing population of Burramys parvus, which is down to roughly 550 adult males and 1,700 females. As the popularity of skiing in Australia continues alongside climate change, the downfall of the mountain pygmy possum will continue as well.


  • Imperial woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis)

    The Red List describes this species as an “enormous, stunning black-and-white woodpecker” with a “huge ivory bill.” It’s been listed as critically endangered since 1994, due to habitat loss and hunting. More specifically, these birds were known to be used for their feathers and bills in indigenous Mexican tribal rituals. The imperial woodpecker hasn’t been spotted with certainty since 1956, and the outlook is bleak.

  • Red wolf (Canis rufus)

    Gray wolves have been the beneficiaries of a massive reintroduction campaign, which may have saved them from extinction. Red wolves, however, aren’t nearly as lucky. Indigenous to North Carolina, the red wolf was actually said to be extinct in the wild before a reintroduction effort in 1987 brought them back. Now that they’re mating with coyotes, there are fewer than 50 mature red wolves alive. That may not be enough to save them from extinction a second time.

  • Sumatran ground cuckoo (Carpococcyx viridis)

    Large, green, and forest-dwelling, the Sumatran ground cuckoo can be found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where deforestation threatens the small population of these birds. Some areas of the Barisan Mountains, an area where the Sumatran ground cuckoo lives, have been designated as protected sites, although more strategies to protect their habitat are currently being developed. 

    [Pictured: Carpococcyx renauldi]

  • Giant carp (Catlocarpio siamensis)

    First documented in Thailand in 1898, the giant carp is so-named because it can grow up to 10 feet long. It primarily lives in the Mekong River system of Southeast Asia and previously played a role as an ample food source for local residents. Urbanization has led to the giant carp being named to the Red List, but in an effort to save the species, Cambodia has designated the giant carp its national fish and declared it a protected species.

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