Animals that are endangered species are those that are likely to become extinct. In 2012 the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that there were 3079 endangered animals. The IUCN has two lists it publishes, its red list and its critically endangered list. The IUCN was created in 1948 to encourage international governments to cooperate in protecting nature, and to share details collected regarding nature. Today it has a membership of over 1400 governmental and non-governmental organisations, employing 1000 staff. The IUCN works with information that has been collected by 16,000 scientists who work on a voluntary basis.
The work of the IUCN is massive as there are so many different ecosystems in the world so the numbers of animals that exist are massive. Some animals survive in the world across a broad area of ecosystems so will have huge numbers, while there are others that will survive in only a few small areas of the world. The extinction of animals is not a recent phenomenon, as the earth has evolved so animals have changed. Some animals are able to adapt to living in certain conditions, where as other animals disappear as the conditions in a certain area changes. The coming and goings of ice periods has resulted in certain animals appearing and disappearing from certain areas.
The disappearance of dinosaurs from the planet is the earliest example of animals becoming extinct. This has led to many questions being asked about the reasons for their extinction which has led to a variety of responses. Today’s extinctions are blamed on the direct and indirect actions of man. The over hunting of certain species has resulted in some animals disappearing and the warming of the planet from man’s activities has resulted in the destruction of certain ecosystems that have been home for certain animals.
The Zanzibar Leopard which is now virtually extinct, used to roam on the African Island of Tanzania. They were kept by local witches but in 1964 they were hunted by locals as part of an anti-witch hunt, and their numbers dwindled to such a low number that the last recorded sighting was in 1980s. The Arabian Ostrich used to occupy areas of the Arabian Peninsula. As the peninsula dried up over time the disappearing of the bird’s natural habitat resulted in its numbers dwindling. This process was accentuated by man hunting the bird for its meat.
As man became mechanized his hunting techniques, such as using guns, became more efficient and by the time it was realized that the bird was in danger of disappearing it was too late. The last known sighting was in 1942 and now government agencies are trying to introduce the North African Ostrich into the area. The Bali tiger used to live on the Indonesian Island of Bali. The tiger had deeper darker more orangey fur than normal tigers, plus it had fewer stripes. With Bali being relatively small the population of the tiger on the Island was never large. The combination of habitat loss and hunting resulted in a disappearance of the species with the last sighting in 1937. Right up to their extinction the tiger was seen by the locals as a negative force and culling was encouraged.
The Bali tiger and the Zanzibar Leopard both lived in small areas of the world. Their localized habitats meant that a drop in their numbers resulted in a complete extinction of their species. This is one of the major problems for conservationists. Some animals start off with such low populations that any drop off in numbers can result in fatal consequences. The work of IUCN and other agencies is vital in highlighting the animals that are in direct danger of extinction. If this is not done successfully then for many breeds it will be too late.