We live in a vast, complex world, where new species are being discovered all the time. Yet even as these exciting creatures are being discovered, the increasing human population, climate change, habitat destruction, hunting and the over-exploitation of wildlife mean countless numbers of animals that will go extinct soon — within a child’s lifetime.
Scientists have estimated that over the course of Earth’s history, anywhere between 1 and 4 billion species have existed.
The natural extinction rate (aka background rate) describes how fast plants, mammals, birds and insects would die off if humans weren’t in the picture. It is estimated that today species are disappearing at almost 1,000 times the natural rate, meaning we’re losing around 150-200 species every single day.
Check out these 30 animals that will likely go extinct before today’s children grow up.
1. Amur Leopard
The Amur Leopard, for example, sits high on this list.
Status: Critically endangered. Less than 70 amur leopards are alive today. The population has severely decreased as the leopard is hunted for its fur, and its natural habitat destroyed by humans.
2. Siberian Tiger
Status: Critically endangered. Siberian tigers are the world’s largest cats, and there are only around 400 to 500 left in the wild today.
3. Snow Leopard
Photo: andyworks, iStockStatus: Vulnerable. Humans are the sole predators of humans, from hunting to habitat loss, we are threatening their population numbers.
From far-off ferocious felines, here are some creatures not far from us…
4. Western Gorilla/Cross River Gorilla
Status: Critically Endangered. Extremely high levels of poaching and hunting have dwindled the population. By 2046, experts believe the Western Gorilla population will be reduced by more than 80 percent. There are two different main gorilla species with their own sub-species. One of the subspecies of Western Gorillas is the Cross River Gorilla — both are labeled as critically endangered.
5. Sumatran Orangutan
Status: Critically endangered. The population of Sumatran Orangutans have declined more than 80 percent in the last 75 years.
Photo: andyworks, iStock
Status: Endangered. Chimpanzees are human’s closest cousins, sharing 98% of our genes. Unfortunately, they have already gone extinct in four countries and are facing population drops everywhere they inhabit.
7. Black Spider Monkey
Photo: webguzs, iStock
Status: Vulnerable. Also known as the red-faced spider monkey, severe deforestation and hunting has challenged the species’ survival.
It’s not just small animals. Massive warrior animals are on the list as well…
8. Sumatran Elephant
Photo: Lethekings, iStock
Status: Critically endangered. Just in the past 25 years, the Sumatran Elephant has lost 70% of its habit. As of 2011, the Sumatran Elephant has an estimated population of less than 2000.
8. Polar Bear
Staus: Vulnerable. Climate change, loss of habitat and oil development have contributed to their decline. Some experts estimate that polar bears will be extinct within 100 years.
10. Black Rhino
Status: Critically endangered. Rhinos are one of the oldest groups of mammals, virtually living fossils. Unfortunately, there are only about 4,848 left on Earth. Three of the subspecies of Black Rhinos are now extinct.
There are lots of underwater creatures on the verge of extinction as well…
Status: Critically endangered. As of 2018, about 10 of the species are thought to exist, making it one of the rarest marine mammals in the world today.
12. Yangtze Finless Porpoise
Status: Critically endangered. With a population estimated to be 1,000 to 1,8000, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise is the last species of dolphin in Asia’s Yangtze River.
13. Bluefin Tuna
Photo: whitepointer, iStock
Status: Endangered. This may surprise people for being on a list of animals that will go extinct because it’s found on so many restaurant menus. But that’s the exact reason why: This species suffers from illegal fishing — they are a delicacy for sushi and sashimi.
14. Fin Whale
Photo: JG1153, iStock
Status: Endangered. The fin whale is the second-largest mammal in the world after the blue whale. They are hunted by commercial whalers for oil and meat and also suffer from environmental change (habitat loss, toxic substances, climate change).
There are more water-loving creatures on the list, but first there are some cute critters getting lost…
Status: Critically endangered. The species was just discovered in 1992. It is often referred to as the Asian Unicorn because of its beauty and rarity.
16. Red Wolf
Status: Critically endangered. Thirty years ago, the last 17 remaining red wolves were placed in captivity to ensure their survival. Today, their numbers have increased to about 100, but still face threats from deforestation.
Photo: GP232, iStock
Status: Vulnerable to critically endangered. This species is the victim of illegal trade as they are hunted for their meat and scales.
18. African Wild Dog
Photo: mjalsbury, iStock
Status: Endangered. As one of the most endangered mammals in the world, there are only around 1,409 wild dogs left in the world today.
19. Black-footed Ferrets
Photo: Kahj19, iStock
Status: Endangered. The species were once believed to be extinct; however, conservation efforts have helped restore the population to almost 300 in North America.
20. Red Panda
Photo: Dmitry_chulov, iStock
Status: Endangered. Red panda’s biggest threat is climate change, leaving less than 10,000 out in the wild
Status: Possibly extinct already. In 2020, CNN unearthed the last known footage of the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. Despite their feline appearance, these fascinating creatures were actually marsupials who once live all throughout Australia before localizing to Tasmania some 2,000 years ago. While sightings of the striped animal are still occasionally reported, the species has officially been considered extinct since the passing of the thylacine from the footage, Benjamin, in 1936.
Photo: Harry Collins, iStock
Status: Vulnerable to critically endangered. There are six subspecies of sloths. The pygmy sloth is critically endangered and the maned sloth is vulnerable. They have suffered from deforestation.
And there are adorable and incredible creatures living on the water’s edge…
23. Galápagos Penguin
Photo: steffiiii, iStock
Status: Endangered. This is the only penguin species found north of the equator and in the Galápagos. They are now threatened by climate change, pollution, and bycatch.
24. Leatherback Turtle
Photo: YouTubeStatus: Vulnerable. Overharvesting has severely threatened the species, along with bycatch from fisheries they encounter in the ocean
25. Hawksbill Turtle
Status: Critically endangered. The species has lost 90% of its population in the past 100 years, with 80% of its population being lost just over the last 10 years.
Photo: pjmalsbury, iStock
Status: Vulnerable. Habit loss is making this species suffer drops in population.
27. Marine Iguana
Photo: wafue, iStock
Status: Vulnerable. Introduced species (cats, dogs, rats) are predators to marine iguanas. Climate change is also to blame for their population loss, from rising sea levels to changing temperatures.
And our last three take us back under the water one last time…