What is an endangered animal?
Endangered animals are mammal, bird, reptile, fish, insect and amphibian species whose existence in the wild are severely threatened by climate or environmental changes. An animal becomes classified as endangered when a significant decrease in the percentage of its population and/or recorded number of its species living in the wild drops to a level of concern.
Although as much as 40% of living animals could be considered endangered, a much smaller percentage actually receives an official status by the governing body, The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Endangered animals can be classified in varying levels of threatened status:
Extinct – No known members of the species exist in the wild or captivity.
Extinct in the Wild – No known members of the species exist in the wild and can only be found in captivity.
Critically Endangered – At peril of becoming extinct in the immediate future.
Endangered – High risk potential for extinction in the not-so-distant future.
Vulnerable – Potential to become extinct soon if efforts aren’t made to maintain the species.
Near Threatened – On the verge of becoming an endangered species.
Least Concern – Population level and environment don’t pose a significant threat at this time.
Some examples of endangered animals include the bald eagle, polar bear, Asian elephant, humpback whale, cheetah, koala bear, snow leopard, grizzly bear, mountain gorilla and giant panda.
What is being done to save these animals from extinction?
Conservation efforts for endangered animals vary depending on the species. Some animals get more attention than others based on the support and activism efforts of people around the world who take up their cause.
One of the most public efforts to preserve a species is the campaign to save the giant panda. The World Wild Life Fund has been an advocate for all endangered species, but in adopting the panda as a part of its logo it shows special favor with this dying breed. Currently less than 1,600 giant pandas are left in the wild, but with huge conservation efforts the number has stabilized. Unfortunately the panda depends heavily on a vast supply of bamboo and with the land and vital resources dwindling due to the rise in Chinese population it is unclear if the giant panda will ever return to a healthy number.