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10 of the World's Critically Endangered Animals & How Species Make the Endangered List

There are currently at least 16,119 species throughout the world that are in danger of global extinction. However, fewer than 3 percent of the world's known 1.9 million species have been assessed, meaning that the actual number of endangered animals could be much, much higher.

endangered animals

Of the 1.9 known animals species in the world, less than 3 percent have been assessed for threat of extinction.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) is the organization in charge of tracking endangered species. They maintain a Red List of Threatened Species, which is updated every four years. Experts assess species based on rate of decline, population size, distribution, range and more, then place them into one of nine categories, from least concerning to most at risk:

  • Not evaluated

  • Data deficient

  • Least concern

  • Near threatened

  • Vulnerable

  • Endangered

  • Critically endangered

  • Extinct in the wild

  • Extinct

Sadly, the number of species falling into the vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered categories has been rising among almost all the major species groups, according to IUCN.

What's Endangering the World's Animals?

Overwhelmingly, humans are the ones causing declines in animal species around the world; 99 percent of threatened species are at risk from human activities.

"Humans are the main cause of extinction and the principle threat to species at risk of extinction," IUCN says.

The leading threat has to do with habitat loss and degradation, which is affecting 86 percent of all threatened birds, 86 percent of threatened mammals, and 88 percent of threatened amphibians.

Meanwhile, things like pollution, disease, human-induced climate change, over-exploitation (hunting, fishing, extracting resources), and introduction of alien species (including cats, rats, and other organisms) are seriously threatening a significant portion of the world's animals.

In all the major species groups, anywhere from 12 percent to 52 percent are threatened, including:

  • One in eight bird species (12 percent)

  • One in four mammals (23 percent)

  • One in three amphibians (32 percent)

  • 42 percent of turtles and tortoises

10 Animals on the Critically Endangered List

While it's impossible to determine which of the 3,071 species on the critically endangered list (the highest threatened category) are the most in danger, all of them in this category face a high risk of extinction in the wild unless changes are made. Here is a sampling of 10 animal species from the list.

Chinese Alligator

Chinese Alligator:

Threatened by habitat destruction and killing by local farmers because it damages agricultural land.

Bonin Fruit Bat

Bonin Fruit Bat:

Threatened by hunting and increasing habitat loss through deforestation of the remote Japanese islands where they live.

Brazilian Guitarfish

Brazilian Guitarfish:

Threatened by over-fishing.

Philippine Eagle

Philippine Eagle:

Threatened by loss of old-growth forest habitat.



Threatened by hunting for subsistence and trade (especially horns and skulls), habitat loss and land mines.

Chestnut-Bellied Hummingbird

Chestnut-Bellied Hummingbird:

Threatened by habitat loss and degradation.

Variegated Spider Monkey

Variegated Spider Monkey:

Threatened by habitat loss and degradation, along with hunting and trapping.

Bushman Hare

Bushman Hare:

Threatened by habitat loss, trapping, hunting and feral cats and dogs.

Lear's Macaw

Lear's Macaw:

Threatened by habitat loss and hunting/trapping for trade.

Red Wolf

Red Wolf:

This species was extinct in the wild in 1980, but was reintroduced in North Caroline in small numbers. It continues to be threatened by accidental death (vehicle collisions), persecution and hybridization with coyotes or red wolf/coyote hybrids.

What's Being Done to Save Endangered Species?

Conservation measures including planning, management, monitoring and increasing public awareness about endangered species are currently underway. Certain species have already been saved, but many more are still at risk.

If you would like to get involved, either by volunteering or making a donation, here are several conservation groups focused on protecting animal species throughout the world:

Recommended Reading

The Worldwide Threat to Coral Reefs and Why It Should Matter to Everyone

Five of America's Most Dangerous Wild Animals -- How to Beware!


The World Conservation Union (IUCN)

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