What's an endangered animal?

A species is called endangered
when there are so few of its kind left
that it could disappear from the planet
altogether and become 'extinct.'

Extinct means an animal hasn't been seen in the wild for 50 years.

In total 762 plant and animal species are now recorded as extinct.
Which animals are in danger?

12,259* species are threatened to some extent,
including mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and fish.

Our closest relatives, the great apes of Africa
and Asia could be close to extinction in the wild.

*We got this number from the 2003 Red List,
an annual report by the World Conservation Union.

How big is the problem?

The Mekong giant catfish is one of the world's largest freshwater fish.
It's up to three meters long.
Numbers have dropped by 80 percent in just 13 years because of humans.
If that carries on it will soon disappear.

There are now less than 1,000 pandas left in the wild.

A hundred years ago there were 100,000 tigers in the wild,
now there are less than 7,000.
Three types of tiger, the Bali, Caspian and Javan tiger,
have already become extinct.
The South China tiger is struggling to survive.

There used to be millions of koalas in Australia.
Now there are less than 100,000.

Is it all our fault?

Animals have always died out naturally,
the Dinosaurs were around for millions of years
before they became extinct.

BUT conservationists reckon animals are now
becoming extinct up to 10,000 times faster
than they would do if there were no humans around.

But our growing population and interference
with our environment mean
the process of extinction's getting faster.

Our world is changing faster than some species can adapt.

What's being done?

In 1985 many countries joined together
to ban whaling because some types
were on the verge of extinction,
but Japan and Norway still catch them for food.
Iceland has now started whaling again after 14 years.

Organisations like the World Wildlife Fund and Born Free,
campaign to save animals which are under threat.

Some governments have passed laws
to stop certain animals from being hunted.

Why are they dying out?

Pollution, chopping down rainforests and
building all affect animal habitats
which means they have nowhere to live and nothing to eat.

Another big problem is humans introducing new plants
and animals on to small islands.
This can result in older species being wiped out.

Buying and selling some exotic animals
for their skins like crocodiles
is illegal in many places but people still do it.

Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks
which are used for jewellery and medicine in some countries.

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