July 9, 2010

5 Animals That Will Probably Become Extinct in Your Child's Lifetime

Can you imagine your grandchildren visiting a museum to look at the mere bones of animals that are alive today? We all expect to see a T-Rex in ancient, skeletal form, but an orangutan? When we were kids and we heard about animals becoming extinct in science class, the finality seemed grave but distant, like there was still hope and time, and their impending doom was so far off into the future we didn't really need to worry about it.

Cut to twenty-five years later, and these endangered species are truly on the brink of being wiped off the planet. So let your kids get a good look at that polar bear at your local zoo, because they may not be around for another generation to see in the flesh. Here are five animals that will probably become extinct in your child's lifetime.

Sumatran Orangutan

The Sumatran Orangutan seen above is threatened due to poaching and habitat destruction of the rainforests in Indonesia, where this species makes their home. Only about 6,500 remain in the wild, and they are poised to become the first great ape species to become extinct. Visit the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program website or Sumatran Orangutan Society to learn more.

Black Rhinoceros

During the 1970s half of the world's rhino population disappeared. There are fewer than 2,500 Black Rhinos left on the earth. Considered the world's most endangered mammal, the Black Rhinoceros faces severe endangerment due to poaching for his horn, which can fetch up to $24,000 in the Far East. The rhino's horn is used in folk medicine in India and China as it is believed to cure headaches, and as a weapon and status symbol among men in North Yemen. Learn how you can help save rhinos in the wild.

Bactrian Camel

The Bactrian Camel is critically endangered due to habitat loss and drought. There are approximately only 950 Bactrian Camels left in the wild, struggling to survive in their native desert habitat in northwest China and Mongolia, which used to be used as a Chinese nuclear test range. These animals are also hunted for sport and killed because they are competition to domestic livestock for food and water resources. Learn more at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation.

Polar Bear

Iconic images of the polar bear swimming and sometimes drowning between melting patches of ice in his dwindling habitat have become synonymous with the case for global warming. Currently, between 20-25,000 polar bears still roam the wild, but if climate change trends continue, scientists predict that polar bears will be extinct within the next 100 years. Visit Polar Bears International to learn more.

Mountain Gorilla

Forest clearing and degradation are main contributing factors to the Mountain Gorilla's pending extinction, and only 720 animals of this species remain on the planet. Additionally, in 2007, there were 10 Mountain Gorilla killings in the Dominican Republic of the Congo, which severely threatened the conservation progress that had been made on their behalf. Visit the International Gorilla Conservation Program to learn more.

Images: Kabie Bakie, Matthew Field, Jeff Kubina, ltshears, Zouavman Le Zouave.

*I recently wrote this piece for EcoSalon.

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