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11 Wild Animal Species You Never Knew Were Endangered

Just because you see them at the zoo, that doesn’t mean they’re doing alright in the wild.

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Orangutans are one of the top endangered animal speciesPhoto: Shutterstock


There are two species of orangutans: Bornean, ones that prefer the ground over the trees, and Sumatran, which have longer facial hair and develop closer bonds with each other. A century ago, their global population was more than 230,000. Now there are between 45,000 and 69,000 Bornean (endangered status) and only 7,500 Sumatran (critically endangered status).

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Two ground squirrelsPhoto: Shutterstock

Ground squirrels

That’s right, even squirrels are endangered, specifically the San Joaquin antelope ground squirrel. Native to California, these guys have been disappearing since 1979 on account of the construction and human developments going through their habitat. Their total population is unknown, but it could be anywhere between 124,000 and 413,000.

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Bengal tiger in the wildPhoto: Shutterstock


All six tiger species are endangered, with Sumatran and South China tigers at a critically endangered status. The main reasons for their population decline are poaching and destroyed habitats, as humans clear forests to gather timber and build roadways. Only about 3,890 tigers currently live in the wild.

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Family of giraffes in AfricaPhoto: Shutterstock


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently put giraffes at a vulnerable status, the level just before endangered. The giraffe population has declined a drastic 40 per cent in the last 30 years, primarily due to loss of habitat and poaching. Some giraffes are killed just for their tails, which are considered status symbols in Africa.

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HummingbirdPhoto: Shutterstock


Seven hummingbird species are endangered, all found in the Americas, primarily because of deforestation. The chestnut-bellied hummingbird has fewer than 1,700 mature individuals, and there are less than 400 sapphire-bellied hummingbirds left.

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Black rhino in KenyaPhoto: Shutterstock

Black rhinos

Black rhinos are critically endangered, with fewer than 5,000 left in the world. The rest have succumbed primarily to poaching and illegal trading for their horns. Between 1970 and 1992, hunters killed 96 per cent of Africa’s black rhinos.

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Bonobo in the waterPhoto: Shutterstock


War hurts more than just humans. Civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made bonobos more vulnerable to poachers and continues to destroy their forest homes. It’s unclear how many bonobos there are—probably 10,000-50,000—but scientists believe their population will continue to decline over the next 50 years.

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Humpback whalePhoto: Shutterstock


As few as 300 North Atlantic right whales remain in the wild, and the populations among the other seven species range between 10,000 and 90,000. Pollution is a major threat for these aquatic giants, but according to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 1,000 whales are killed every year for commercial purposes.

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Asian elephant in forestPhoto: Shutterstock

Asian elephants

The main threat to Asian elephants, one of the most intelligent animals, is their shrinking habitat. As the human population grows, people invade their land to build roads and railway tracks. Elephants in Myanmar are at an especially high risk for being captured and traded or used illegally in the tourist industry. Fewer than 50,000 are left on the entire continent.

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Chimpanzees on a treePhoto: Shutterstock


Game meat from chimps, called bushmeat, has become a delicacy for wealthy African residents, which makes them a prime target for poaching. Additionally, baby chimpanzees are taken from their natural habitats and sold as pets in nearby cities. Their current population is somewhere between 173,000 and 300,000.

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South American sea lionPhoto: Shutterstock

Sea lions

Sea lions native to Australia, New Zealand, and the Galapagos Islands are all on the endangered species list. Their main threat is bycatch, which occurs when they are accidentally caught in fishing equipment while commercial fishers are trying to catch other fish. New Zealand sea lions are predicted to be extinct in five generations, about 50 years.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest