Teetering on the edge: the world's 100 most endangered species (photos)

Jeremy Hance
September 10, 2012

Only described in 2010, its unknown how many Durrell's vontsiras (Salanoia durrelli) survive. Photo by: Ian Vernon and Tim Hounsome with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Only described in 2010, its unknown how many Durrell's vontsiras (Salanoia durrelli) survive. Photo by: Ian Vernon and Tim Hounsome with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

From the Baishan fir (five left in the world) to the Sumatran rhino (around 250), a new report highlights the world's top 100 most endangered species, according to the the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The list spans the taxonomic gamut, from fungi (Cryptomyces maximus) to amphibians (the Table Mountain ghost frog) to flowers (the Cayman Islands ghost orchid) and much more (see full list at the end of the article).

"The species featured here represent the 100 most critically endangered species in the world," announces the report. "If we don’t rapidly increase the amount of conservation attention that they receive they may soon be lost forever."

Listed in alphabetical order, the report represents the best knowledge available on endangered species. While scientists to date have described nearly 2 million species on Earth, most believe several million (and perhaps tens-of-millions) remain undiscovered. In addition, scientists generally have far more data on the populations and threats facing vertebrate species, such as mammals and amphibians, than they do of insects, plants, and fungi. Still, these 100 near-extinct species highlights the increasing global biodiversity crisis, which could result in a mass extinction with untold consequences for the world's ecosystems.

"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable," co-author Ellen Butcher with ZSL said in a statement. "If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back. However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."

While a few of these species have seen targeted conservation efforts, such as the Sumatran rhino and the saola, many lack any conservation efforts.

"The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet," says ZSL's Director of Conservation, Jonathan Baillie, and co-author of the report.

The report also highlights that targeted conservation efforts in the past has had numerous successes in keeping species from vanishing for good, such as Prezwalski's horse, the humpback whale, and the black robin. Still the general trend outlined by scientists is a global decline in biodiversity.

"Society is at a point in history where a decision needs to be made," Baillie writes in the report. "Do these species have the right to exist?"

Less than 250 great Indian bustards (Ardeotis nigriceps) survive. Photo by: Rahul Sachdev.
Less than 250 great Indian bustards (Ardeotis nigriceps) survive. Photo by: Rahul Sachdev.

Less than 800 Araripe manakins (Antilophia bokermanni) survive. Photo by: Ciro Albano.
Less than 800 Araripe manakins (Antilophia bokermanni) survive. Photo by: Ciro Albano.

This fungus, Cryptomyces maximus, is facing extinction. Photo by: David Harries.
This fungus, Cryptomyces maximus, is facing extinction. Photo by: David Harries.

Archey's frog (Leiopelma archeyii), native to New Zealand, is in big trouble. Photo by: New Zealand Department of Conservation.
Archey's frog (Leiopelma archeyii), native to New Zealand, is in big trouble. Photo by: New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Amsterdam Island albatross (Diomedea-amsterdamensis), is down to only 100 birds. Albatrosses are among the world's most endangered birds. Photo by: Eric van der Vlist.
Amsterdam Island albatross (Diomedea-amsterdamensis), is down to only 100 birds. Albatrosses are among the world's most endangered birds. Photo by: Eric van der Vlist.

About 250 Sumatran rhinos (Diceros sumatrensis) survive in a few different populations. Photo by: Save the Rhino International.
About 250 Sumatran rhinos (Diceros sumatrensis) survive in a few different populations. Photo by: Save the Rhino International.

Santa Catarina's guinea pig (Cavia intermedia) is down to about 40-60 animals. Photo by: Luciano Candisani.
Santa Catarina's guinea pig (Cavia intermedia) is down to about 40-60 animals. Photo by: Luciano Candisani.

The geometric tortoise (Psammobates geometricus) has lost almost all of its habitat in South Africa. Photo by: Erik Baard.
The geometric tortoise (Psammobates geometricus) has lost almost all of its habitat in South Africa. Photo by: Erik Baard.

The Okinawa spiny rat (Tokudaia muenninki) is only found on the Japanese Island of Okinawa. Already, Japan has lost several of its endemic mammals. Photo by: Norihiro Kawauchi.
The Okinawa spiny rat (Tokudaia muenninki) is only found on the Japanese Island of Okinawa. Already, Japan has lost several of its endemic mammals. Photo by: Norihiro Kawauchi.

The Table Mountain ghost frog (Heleophryne rosei) is only found on a single mountain in South Africa. Photo by: Atherton de Villiers.
The Table Mountain ghost frog (Heleophryne rosei) is only found on a single mountain in South Africa. Photo by: Atherton de Villiers.

The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) was discovered last year in Colombia after missing for over a century. Photo by: Lizzie Noble/Pro Aves.
The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) was discovered last year in Colombia after missing for over a century. Photo by: Lizzie Noble/Pro Aves.

Scientific NameCommon NameCategoryPopulationThreats to Survival Action Required
Abies beshanzuensisBaishan FirConifer5 mature individualsAgricultural expansion and fireEx-situ conservation and re-introduction, and establishment of a protected area
Actinote zikanibutterflyUnknown, one population remainingHabitat degradation due to pressure from human populationsProtection of habitat and Mikania obsoleta (host plant)
Aipysurus foliosquamaLeaf scaled sea-snakesea-snakeUnknown, two subpopulations remainUnknown - likely degradation of coral reef habitatEvaluate reasons for population decline and formulate appropriate management plans
Amanipodagrion gilliesiAmani Flatwingbutterfly<500 individuals est.Habitat degradation due to increasing population pressure and water pollutionHabitat protection
Antilophia bokermanniAraripe Manakinbird779 individuals (est 2010)abitat destruction due to expansion of agriculture and recreational facilities and water diversionFormal protection of remaining habitat and protection of springs and streams
Antisolabis seychellensisSeychelles earwigearwigUnknown (declining)Invasive species and climate changeHabitat management to prevent further invasion by introduced plants
Aphanius transgrediensfreshwater fishUnknown (declining)Competition and predation by Gambusia and road construction Raise awareness in national conservation groups and governments, monitor and conserve current springs, develop action plan for lost springs and maintain captive populations
Aproteles bulmeraeBulmer's Fruit Batbat150 individuals (est)Hunting and cave disturbanceProtection of Luplupwintern cave and enforced prohibition of hunting
Ardea insignisWhite bellied heronbird70-400 individualsHabitat destruction and degradation due to hydropower development Develop captive rearing and release program, eliminate adverse uses of riverine habitat, and mitigate effects of hydroelectric development
Ardeotis nigricepsGreat Indian Bustardbird50 -249 mature individualsHabitat loss and modification due to agricultural developmentEstablishment of protected areas and community reserves, and realignment of Indira Ghandi Nahar Canal Project
Astrochelys yniphoraPloughshare tortoise / angonokatortoise440-770Illegal collection for international pet tradeEnforcement of legal protection and protected area management
Atelopus baliosRio pescado stubfoot toadtoadUnknown (declining)Chytridiomycosis and habitat destruction due to logging and agricultural expansionProtection of last remaining habitat
Aythya innotataMadagascar Pochardbirdapproximately 20 mature individualsHabitat degradation due to slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, and fishing / introduced fishFormal protection of current breeding site, habitat restoration, and development of release programme for captive-bred individuals
Azurina eupalamaGalapagos damsel fishpelagic fishUnknown (declining)Climate Change - oceanographic changes associated with the 1982 / 1983 El Nino are presumed to be responsible for the apparent disappearance of this species from the Galapagos Surveys to identify if the species still exists in Los Lobos Islands
Bahaba taipingensisGiant yellow croakerpelagic fishUnknown (declining)Over-fishing, primarily due to value of swim-bladder for traditional medicine - cost per kilogram exceeded that of gold in 2001Establishment of appropriate protection in Hong Kong and enforcement of legal protection in China
Batagur baskaCommon Batagur/ Four-toed terrapinturtleUnknown (declining)Illegal export and trade from Indonesia to China Enforcement of CITES Appendix I restrictions and control of illegal trade
Bazzania bhutanicaliverwortUnknown (declining)Habitat degradation and destruction due to forest clearance, overgrazing and development Protection of area to prevent future development damaging remaining habitat
Beatragus hunteriHirolaantelope< 1000 individuals Habitat loss and degradation, competition with livestock, poachingEstablishment of protected areas and community conservancies, increase in level of management and protection of wild population
Bombus frankliniFranklin's Bumble BeebeeUnknown (declining)Disease from commercially bred bumblebees and habitat destruction and degradationProtection of habitat containing nectar and pollen sources
Brachyteles hypoxanthusNorthern muriquiprimate< 1,000 individualsHabitat loss and fragmentation due to large-scale deforestation and selective loggingHabitat protection and commitment of resources to support the implementation of the national action plan
Bradypus pygmaeusPygmy slothsloth<500 individuals Habitat loss due to illegal logging of mangrove forests for firewood and construction and hunting of the slothsEnforcement of protection of the Isla Escudo de Veraguas nature sanctuary and raising awareness
Callitriche pulchrafreshwater plantUnknown (declining)Exploitation of the species’ habitat by stock, and modification of the pool by local peopleProvide alternative water sources for stock, involve local people in the protection of the pool and document remaining water bodies on Gavdos
Calumma tarzanTarzan's chameleonchameleonUnknownHabitat destruction for agricultureSupport for nascent community conservation initiatives and protection of habitat
Cavia intermediaSanta Catarina's guinea pigguinea pig40-60 individualsHabitat disturbance and possible hunting; small population effectsProtected area enforcement and regulation of access to the island
Cercopithecus rolowayRoloway GuenonprimateUnknownhunting for consumption as bushmeat, and habitat lossProtection of habitat from logging and conversion to agricultural land
Coleura seychellensisSeychelles sheath-tailed batbat<100 mature individuals (est 2008)Habitat degradation and predation by invasive speciesRemoval of invasive vegetation and control of introduced predators, coupled with legal protection of habitat and roosting sites
Cryptomyces maximusfungusUnknown (declining)Limited availability of habitatcontinue protection of current populations and habitat regeneration projects
Cryptotis nelsoniNelson's small-eared shrewshrewUnknown (declining)habitat loss due to logging cattle grazing, fire and agriculture
Cyclura colleiJamaican iguanaiguanaUnknown (declining)Predation by introduced species and habitat destructionTranslocation to predator-free islands and control of deforestation development of legislation that will facilitate the protection of the Ironwood Forests
Dendrophylax fawcettiiCayman islands ghost orchidorchidUnknown (declining)Habitat destruction due to infrastructure developmentDevelopment of legislation that will facilitate the protection of the Ironwood Forests
Dicerorhinus sumatrensisSumatran rhinorhino<250 individuals Hunting for horn -used in traditional medicineExpansion and reinforcement of anti-poaching programmes and continuation of captive breeding efforts
Diomedea amsterdamensisAmsterdam Island albatrossbird100 mature individualsdisease and incidental capture in long-line fishing operationsPrevention of the spread of disease and promotion of best-practice measures in all fisheries within the species range
Diospyros katendeitree20 individuals, one populationHigh pressure from communities for agricultural activity, illegal tree felling, habitat degradation due to alluvial gold digging and small populationEnforcement of legal protection of area, field surveys for further search and ex situ conservation in arboreta / botanic gardens
Dipterocarpus lamellatusdipterocarp (tree)12 individualsHabitat loss and degradation due to logging of lowland forest and creation of industrial plantationsRestoration of Sianggau Forest Reserve and re-introduction of species to previous range
Discoglossus nigriventerHula painted frogfrogUnknown (recent rediscovery in 2011)Predation by birds and range restriction due to habitat destructionrestoration of habitat
Discorea strydomianaWild Yamyam200 individualsCollection for medicinal useDevelop strategy for sustainable use and establish ex situ populations
Dombeya mauritianaflowering plantUnknown (declining)Habitat degradation and destruction due to encroachment by alien invasive plant species and cannabis cultivationControl of invasive plant species, habitat protection and re-introduction of propagated individuals
Elaeocarpus bojeriflowering plant<10 individualsSmall population and degraded habitatUnknown - trees are currently being closely monitored to determine level of threat and how these should be addressed
Eleutherodactylus glanduliferLa Hotte Glanded FrogfrogUnknown (declining)Habitat destruction due to charcoal production and slash-and-burn agricultureHabitat protection
Eleutherodactylus thorectesMacaya Breast-spot frogfrogUnknown Habitat destruction due to charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture Protection of habitat
Eriosyce chilensisChilenitocactus<500 individualsCollection of flowering individualsProtection of plants through construction of a fence and signage alerting people to threatened status
Erythrina schliebeniicoral treeflowering tree< 50 individualsLimited habitat and small population size increasing vulnerability to stochastic eventsComplete establishment of Forest Reserves and continue propagation efforts, ex situ conservation
Euphorbia tanaensissemi-deciduous tree4 mature individualsIllegal logging and habitat degradation due to agricultural expansion and infrastructure development Enforcement of legal protection in the Witu Forest Reserve, which has diminished due to civil insecurity
Eurynorhynchus pygmeusSpoon-billed sandpiperbird< 100 breeding pairsTrapping on wintering grounds and land reclamation.Maintenance of critical intertidal staging posts and reducing trapping on wintering grounds.
Ficus katendeitree (ficus)< 50 mature individuals Agricultural activity, illegal tree felling and habitat degradation due to alluvial gold diggingex-situ conservation in arboreta / botanic gardens; enforcement of protection to contain encroachment and habitat degradation; community development programmes in areas adjacent to the reserve
Geronticus eremitaNorthern Bald Ibisbird200-249 mature individualsHabitat degradation and destruction, and huntingProtection of key breeding and roosting sites
Gigasiphon macrosiphonflowering tree33 mature individuals Timber extraction and habitat degradation due to agricultural encroachment and development, seed predation by wild pigsEnforcement of protection in reserves and establishment of management plan to mitigate effects of water loss from hydroelectricity developments
Gocea ohridanamolluscUnknown (declining)Habitat degradation due to increasing pollution levels, off-take of water and sedimentation eventsImplement transboundary agreements to improve habitat management
Heleophryne roseiTable Mountain ghost frogfrogUnknown (declining)Habitat degradation due to invasive plants and water abstractionProtection of habitat, continued implementation of management plans and integration of activities between sites
Hemicycla paetelianamolluscUnknown (declining)Habitat destruction due to overgrazing and trampling by goats and touristsConservation of habitat and control of goats, and limiting recreational access to area by tourists
Heteromirafra sidamoensisLiben Larkbird90- 256 individualsHabitat loss and degradation due to agricultural expansion, over-grazing and fire suppressionRestoration of grasslands, including establishing sustainable land management practices, clearing scrub and reinstating fire regime
Hibiscadelphus woodiihibiscusUnknownHabitat degradation due to feral ungulates and invasive introduced plant speciesSurvey the extremely steep terrain for additional individuals. Control of invasive species in the remaining suitable habitat so that species can be reintroduced if more individuals are located
Hucho perryi (Parahucho perryi)Sakhalin taimensalmonidUnknown (declining)Overfishing (sport fishing and commercial bycatch) and habitat loss from damming, agriculture and other land use practices.Expansion of conservation protection in rivers in Russia and Japan and enforcement of fishing regulations
Johora singaporensisSingapore Freshwater CrabcrabUnknownHabitat degradation – reduction in water quality and quantityProtection of remaining habitat and establishment of ex-situ populations
Lathyrus belinensissweet-pea<1,000 (2010 est)Habitat destruction due to urbanisation, over-grazing, conifer planting and road widening Habitat protection, control of grazing, halt conifer planting and periodic sampling for ex situ seed conservation
Leiopelma archeyiArchey's frogfrogunknown but decliningChytridiomycosis and predation by invasive speciesContinuation of current conservation efforts
Lithobates sevosusDusky gopher frogfrog60-100 individuals (est 2003)Fungal disease and habitat limitation due to climate change and land-use changesProtection of habitat and management of population to prevent spread of disease
Lophura edwardsiEdward's pheasantbirdUnknownhunting and habitat lossEffective law enforcement, habitat restoration and development of a captive breeding programme
Magnolia wolfiimagnoliaUnknown (declining) Isolation of species and low regeneration ratesProtection of remaining population and exploration of potential for ex-situ conservation
Margaritifera marocanamussel<250 individuals (2010 est)Habitat degradation and disturbance due to pollution and development Habitat protection to mitigate effects of construction of hydroelectricity schemes and agricultural abstraction
Moominia williimollusc< 500 individuals Invasive species and climate changeProtection of habitat and control of invasive species
Natalus primusCuban greater funnel eared batbat<100 individuals (est 2005)habitat loss and human disturbanceprotection of cueva la barca and its surrounds
Nepenthes attenboroughiiAttenborough's Pitcher Plantcarnivorous plantUnknownPoachingCreation of a protected area and enforcement of current legal protection
Neurergus kaiseriLuristan newtnewt<1000 mature individuals Illegal collection for pet tradeEnforcement of protection
Nomascus hainanusHainan Gibbonprimate< 20 individualshuntinggun confiscation in the area of the Bawangling population and habitat protection
Oreocnemis phoenixMulanje Red DamselbutterflyUnknown (declining)Habitat destruction and degradation due to drainage, agricultural expansion and exploitation of forestEnforcement of habitat protection
Pangasius sanitwongseiPangasid catfishfreshwater fishUnknown (declining)Overfishing and collection for aquarium tradeProtection from overfishing and collection
Parides burchellanus butterfly< 100 individualsHabitat degrdation due to pressure from human populations and range restrictionProtection of galley forest habitat
Phocoena sinusVaquitaporpoise<200 individuals and decliningIncidental capture in gillnetsBan on use of gillnets throughout the species’ range
Picea neoveitchiiconiferUnknown (declining)Forest destruction "Ex-situ conservation and re-introduction; establishment of protected areas"
Pinus squamataQiaojia PineConifer< 25 mature individualsLimited distribution and small population size Ex-situ conservation and re-introduction; establishment of protected areas
Poecilotheria metallicaPeacock Parachute SpiderspiderHabitat loss and degradation as a result of deforestation, firewood collection and civil unrestHabitat protection, awareness at community level, inclusion in the national Wildlife Protection Act and national and international trade legislation
Pomarea whitneyiFatuhiva monarchbutterfly50 individuals Predation by introduced species - Rattus rattus and feral catsIncrease control of introduced species and consider translocation, either to another island or by creating another, larger controlled area in an accessible part of Fatu Hiva
Pristis pristisCommon SawfishsawfishUnknown (declining)Exploitation - has removed the species from 95% of its historical rangeFurther research required to understand current distribution and threats and ways of managing those
Prolemur simusGreater bamboo lemurprimate100-160 individualsHabitat destruction due to slash-and-burn agriculture, mining and illegal loggingHabitat protection and reforestation in the Ivato and Karlanaga regions
Propithecus candidusSilky Sifakaprimate100 -1,000 individualsHunting and habitat disturbanceContinuation and expansion of efforts to end hunting and establishment of protected areas
Psammobates geometricusGeometric tortoisetortoiseUnknownHabitat destruction and degradation, and predationEstablishment of additional reserves and management of fire regimes
Pseudoryx nghetinhensisSaolasaola (bovid affinities)UnknownHunting and habitat destructionIncrease enforcement efforts and habitat protection
Psiadia cataractaeflowering plantUnknownHabitat degradation and destruction due to development project and alien invasive plant species Effective protection of the area, continuous and effective control of invasive alien plants particularly grasses and replanting of hardened nursery grown plants
Psorodonotus ebneriBeydaglari Bush-cricketcricketUnknownclimate change, habitat loss Development of a bioacoustic monitoring scheme and strategic conservation action plan, establishment of a nature reserve, implementation of habitat management scheme, and research on population size, trends, distribution, and ecology
Rafetus swinhoeiRed River giant softshell turtleturtle4 known individuals Hunting for consumption and habitat destruction and degradation as a result of wetland destruction and pollutionEducation and awareness programmes, and captive breeding
Rhinoceros sondaicusJavan rhinorhino< 100 individualsHunting for traditional medicine and small population sizeEnforcement of protection laws and possible establishment of a captive breeding programme
Rhinopithecus avunculusTonkin snub-nosed monkeyprimate< 200 individualshabitat loss and hunting. Known from only a few records in small area of habitat ( less than 10km2), Establishment of a conservation area for Khau Ca Conservation area in Ha Giang province and increase law enforcement to reduce hunting pressure
Rhizanthella gardneriWest Australian underground Orchidorchid< 100 individualsLand clearance for agriculture (96% habitat cleared to date), climate change and salinisationIn-situ protection of the two supporting organisms and protection of seed stocks and the fungus partner in the seed bank
Rhynchocyon spp.Boni Giant SengisengiUnknown (declining)Highly restricted habitat and distribution, security issues, oil development in area with associated increase in human population in areaFormal protection of Boni-Dodori forest and finalisation of formal identification
Risiocnemis seidenschwarziCebu frill-wingdamsel-flyUnknown (declining)Habitat degradation and destruction.Designation of area as ‘Critical Habitat’ – restricting human access to the areas
Rosa arabicaflowering treeUnknown (declining)Domestic animals grazing, climate change and drought, medicinal plant collection and restricted range Protection of individuals from exploitation
Salanoia durrelliDurrell's Vontsiravontsira (small carnivore)Unknown (declining)Habitat lossImproved management for Lake Alaotra protected area
Santamartamys rufodorsalisRed-crested tree ratratUnknownHabitat loss through urban development and coffee cultivationSurveys to map species range, continued habitat protection at known site of occurence
Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnisRed-finned blue eyefreshwater fish2,000 - 4,000 individualsPredation by introduced speciesControl of the invasive species Gambusia holbrooki, and reintroduction of S.vermeilipinnis
Squatina squatinaAngel sharksharkUnknown (declining)Benthic trawlingProtection of Canary Islands habitat and nearby continental shelf habitats from trawling
Sterna bernsteiniChinese crested ternbird< 50 mature individualsEgg collection and habitat destructionProtect breeding sites, strengthen legal protection status and raise awareness at breeding colonies
Syngnathus watermeyeriEstuarine Pipefish (River Pipefish)pipefish Unknown (declining)Construction of dams altering river flows and flood events into estuariesEstablishment of a freshwater ‘reserve’, pollution control and implementation of water use allocations
Tahina spectabilisSuicide Palmpalm90 individualsHabitat loss due to fires, logging and agricultural developmentsEstablishment of a protected area and development of a management plan
Telmatobufo bullockiBullock’s false toadtoadunknownHabita destruction as a result of energy developmentHalting development of the hydo-electricity scheme and protecting habitat
Tokudaia muenninkiOkinawa Spiny Ratratunknown (declining)Habtiat loss and predation by feral catsSurveys to map species range, protection of remaining habitat and feral cat control programme
Trigonostigma somphongsiSomphongs's rasborafreshwater fishUnknown (declining)Habitat loss and degradation from farmland conversion and urbanizationWetland restoration
Valencia letourneuxifreshwater fishUnknown (declining)Habitat destruction, water abstraction and agressive interaction with GambusiaProtection of habitat and control of Gambusia
Voanioala gerardiiForest Coconutpalm< 10 individualsHarvesting for consumption of palm heart and deforestationProtection of individuals and habitat coupled with public awareness campaigns
Zaglossus attenboroughiAttenborough's EchidnaechidnaUnknownHabitat modification and degradation due to logging, agricultural encroachment shifting cultivation and hunting by local peopleEnhance awareness and cultural significance of the species and establish sustainable management practices and conduct additional surveys

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mongabay.com (September 10, 2012).

Teetering on the edge: the world's 100 most endangered species (photos).