In a few short decades, many animals we know and love will be gone forever. And not because of some natural disaster or epidemic, but because of us.
Humans are responsible for the majority of animal extinctions that have occurred in the last century.
We’re destroying their habitats, polluting their ecosystems, and hunting them to extinction. The sad truth is that unless we change our ways, many more animals will meet this fate in the years to come.
The list of animals that will be extinct by 2050 includes iconic creatures, such as lions, elephants, and pandas.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at these animals and discover why they risk disappearing from our planet forever.
It’s truly staggering how many animal species are currently critically endangered!
The main reason animals are becoming extinct is humans’ impact on the environment:
Sadly, this is just a small taste of the destruction we’re causing.
The lion is one of the most iconic animals on the planet. For centuries, it has been revered as a symbol of strength and power.
However, there are only around 23,000 lions left in the wild, and their numbers are declining fast.
One of the main threats to lions is habitat loss. As humans have cleared land for farms and cities, lions have lost much of their natural home.
In addition, lions are often hunted by humans. They’re killed for sport and their fur, meat, and body parts.
Like lions, elephants are also struggling to survive.
Only approximately 415,000 African elephants are left in the wild, and their numbers are declining rapidly.
The main threat to elephants is hunting. The illegal ivory trade is having a devastating impact on populations of elephants all over Africa.
Elephants also lose their habitat as we clear land for farms and cities. This causes them to come into conflict with humans, which often leads to them being killed.
The panda is one of the most beloved animals on the planet. These gentle giants are adored by people worldwide.
Sadly, pandas are also in danger of extinction. There are only just over 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild.
It's notoriously very difficult to breed Pandas, either in the wild or in captivity. Female giant pandas ovulate only once a year, and if a male does not fertilize the egg within a 40-hour window, the opportunity has gone until the following year.
Pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals in the world.
They’re often hunted for their meat and scales used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Pangolins are also threatened by habitat loss and deforestation.
There are seven sea turtle species, and all of them are endangered (especially the hawksbill sea turtle).
Sea turtle extinction is being caused by a range of human activities, including the illegal trade in turtle shells, fishing, pollution, and disrupted turtle breeding caused by coastal development.
Sea turtle existence is also threatened by entanglement in fishing nets or eating plastic bags.
The main threat to rhino mass extinction is poaching. They’re killed for their horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. In some parts of the world, rhino horn is more valuable than gold.
As a result of this illegal trade, rhino populations have declined dramatically. For example, there are only around 5,500 black rhinos left in the wild.
The numbers are slowly increasing from a low of 2,500. However, the species is still in grave danger of extinction.
Bees are one of the most important animals on the planet. They play a vital role in pollinating crops and helping to ensure our food supply.
Sadly, bees are in trouble. In recent years, there has been a dramatic decline in bee populations all over the world.
There are many reasons for this, but the main one is the use of pesticides and other chemicals. These substances can kill bees or make it difficult for them to find food.
There are approximately 22,000 polar bears left in the wild, and their numbers are declining.
As the Earth’s temperature rises, the ice that polar bears rely on for their survival is melting. This means they’re losing their habitat and are struggling to find food.
Due to a range of threats, including habitat loss, hunting, and conflict with humans, approximately only 4,500 tigers remain in the wild.
The good news is that conservation efforts are beginning to pay off, and tiger populations are slowly starting to increase.
However, unless climate change and habitat loss are halted (or at least dramatically slowed down), the good news for tigers won’t last long.
Dolphins are one of the most loved animals on the planet. They’re often seen as friendly and intelligent, a popular choice for marine parks and zoos.
However, dolphins are in danger of dying out. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that they’re often caught in discarded fishing gear (nets, lines, etc.).
As a kid, one of my favorite jokes was, “Why shouldn’t you play cards with wild animals? Too many cheetahs!”. But the plight of these big cats is now far from funny.
There are only around 8,000 cheetahs left in the wild.
The main threat to cheetahs is habitat loss. As humans expand into their territory, cheetahs lose the places they need to live and hunt.
In addition, cheetahs are also under threat from hunting and the illegal wildlife trade. They’re often killed for their fur, which is used to make clothing and other items.
Apes are one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.
The main threat to orangutans, for example, is habitat loss. As humans have cleared forests for palm oil plantations, orangutans have lost much of their natural home.
The Cross River gorilla is now listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List due to poaching and a decrease in genetic diversity caused by inbreeding.
Many apes are also often killed by humans for sport, hunted for food, or captured and sold into the illegal pet trade.
Whales are some of the largest animals on the planet. They’re also among the most intelligent, with a brain size that rivals ours.
Sadly, whales are often hunted for their meat and blubber.
They’re also threatened by pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and reduction in the fish ecosystems they rely on for food.
Frogs might not be the most popular animals, but they play an essential role in the ecosystem. They help to keep insect populations under control and are a food source for many larger animals.
However, frog populations around the world are in decline. A major reason for this is a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis.
Many frogs are also killed by humans for food or medicine. They’re also threatened by habitat loss and pollution.
Eels are popular in many cultures around the world.
They’re considered a delicacy in Japan, and eel farming is big business there.
However, eel populations are in decline due to overfishing and pollution.
Lemurs are one of the most endangered animals on the planet. There are over 100 species of lemurs, and nearly all of them are at risk of extinction.
The main threat to lemurs is habitat loss. But their population numbers are also under threat from hunting and the illegal pet trade.
The saola is a rare mammal found in the forests of Laos and Vietnam. It’s often referred to as the “Asian unicorn” due to its rarity.
Scientists have documented saolas in the wild on only four occasions.
Koalas are one of the most popular animals in the world. They’re often seen as cute and cuddly, a popular choice for zoos and wildlife parks.
However, koalas are under threat from habitat loss, climate change, and disease.
Snow leopards, in particular, are facing immediate peril due to habitat loss.
The vaquita is a small porpoise found in the Gulf of California. It’s the most endangered marine mammal in the world, with fewer than ten individuals thought to be left in the wild.
The main threat to vaquitas is entanglement in fishing nets. They’re also often killed as bycatch or caught and sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
It’s not just animals that could disappear in our lifetime. A harsher climate could lead to us losing things such as:
Alarmingly, this is just a tiny sample of the animals that will be extinct by 2050. In fact, 98% of all organisms that have ever existed on Earth are already extinct.
We must act immediately to do everything we can to save the remaining 2% before it’s too late.
You can do many things to help protect these critically endangered animals. Here are some ideas:
Together, we can make a difference and ensure that these animals are around for generations to come.
Were you aware of the scale of the problem? Are you shocked by the number of animals that will be extinct by 2050?
Are you taking steps to help stop global warming and save the polar bears? Do you avoid palm oil to protect the western lowland gorilla? Drop me a line and let me know.