Fighting extinction: What you can do to help endangered animals

Fighting extinction: What you can do to help endangered animals






Catching a glimpse of a tiger in an Indian forest. Watching an orang-utan snap off a tree branch to use as a scratching stick. Seeing a black rhino nuzzle its young. They are all astonishing sights available to travelers today but which we're all sickeningly aware might not be there for our children or even more our grandchildren.

With the latest UN backed report revealing that one million of the world's species will extinction in future. But going to see those animals while we still can may hold the key to their long term survival say the experts.

"Eco-tourism can be a critical tool in conservation because it provides a sustainable income stream to local communities and shows them that these animals are deserves more to be alive than dead like Cameron Kerr the director of Taronga Conservation Society Australia. 

"Eco-tourism can be very labor intensive as well and the work it provides helps people have pride in themselves and their culture and ways of living. It's an important factor in helping protect wildlife and seeing these animals builds empathy and changes people's behavior. We absolutely relate to wildlife it's in our genes."

Saving endangered animals from extinction is all about winning hearts and minds then acting strategically to arrest the decrease in numbers usually caused by poaching being hunted for meat deforestation poisoning of the ecosystem or global warming. Then there is work that should be done to preserve natural habitats and repopulate the ecosystem.

That mission has acquired a fresh urgency with the new UN-Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Global Assessment Report released last month. It was compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries over three years. It found that more animal and plant species are in danger of extinction than ever before in human history.

"Nature's contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity's most important life supporting safety net co-chair Professor Sandra Diaz. 

It's a warning we are receiving from award-winning naturalist Sir David Attenborough, too. He charmed us all for decades with his mesmerizing documentaries about the splendid of the world's creatures but is now using his standing to show us how critically they are endangered.

Darren Grover the head of living ecosystems at the World Wildlife Fund says Attenborough's passion is infectious. "He used Our Planet to really show us the stories of the threats to wildlife as well as how beautiful it is" he says. "And we should be alarmed. So many species are in danger and we know what the answers are and we have to have the motivation to do what needs to be done.

"While it's wonderful to see those documentaries too there is nothing actually like seeing animals ourselves. A few of years ago I saw a tiger in the wild which was breathtaking and an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Seeing those animals make a big difference to our lives."

Australia has a poor record in protecting wildlife with hundreds of species vanishing since European settlement. Now with one in 3 of our unique mammals at risk and that's not even considering the controversial black-throated finch at the center of the Adani mine controversy it's even more important that we get out and about to see them says James Fitzsimons director of conservation at the Nature Conservancy Australia.

"There is so much that needs to be done to conserve our species whether by offering financial incentives increased funding or buying new reserves" he says. "It's great for people to go out and see them and then really feel the urgency of helping."

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS AND CROSS RIVER GORILLAS



THE HABITATS


Mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains of Rwanda Uganda and Cross River Gorillas in Nigeria and Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

STATUS


There are about 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild and at most 300 Cross River gorillas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies them as endangered as a result of habitat loss hunting civil conflict and disease.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


Strictly controlled a group gorilla trekking safaris can run throughout the year in Rwanda and Uganda, with the Classic Safari Company one of the top operators.

THE DETAILS


The most popular time for seeing gorillas is between February  and December and September  to June when it is drier.

SUMATRAN TIGERS



THE HABITATS


They live in the small remaining patches of forest on the Indonesian island.

STATUS


Heavy black stripes on their orange coats this smallest of the tiger species has been hunted and now fewer than 400 remain in the wild with deforestation a further huge threat. They are now critically endangered.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


Kerinci Seblat National Park on Sumatra has the highest population of tigers on the island at up to 190 animals and is acclaimed by the Global Tiger Initiative as a protected area with important work being done for conservation. Trekking offers the only hope of seeing them but they are really shy and nocturnal so sightings can be rare.

THE DETAILS


Lonely Planet has declared Wild Sumatra Adventures as the most conservation-minded trek operator in the area ploughing 5% of its funds back into tiger protection. 

HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLES


THE HABITATS


This small turtle lives in the warm tropical coastline waters of the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

STATUS


It's the most endangered species of turtle and in the top Ten of creatures at risk worldwide with maybe only about 8000 turtles left. They are been hunted for years for their beautifully patterned tortoiseshell shells which are turned into jewelry and ornaments. Natural predators and climate change are also significant threats.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


The Kimberley region of Western Australia is known to have a good population with nesting occurring mostly from October to January. They can be really difficult to see but guides are trained at spotting them in the water and on the sandy beaches of the coastline. The best way is to take a Kimberley cruise.

THE DETAILS


Take a Kimberley cruise with a company like APT for instance that has a series of guides and wildlife experts skilled at spotting turtles and dedicated to preserving the pristine environment.

GIANT PANDAS


THE HABITATS


This black and white bear the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund WWF lives mostly in bamboo forests in the mountains of western China.

STATUS


Its status is vulnerable with just over 1800 pandas thought to be living in the wild. The pandas' primary habitat the Yangtze Basin region is at the center of China's economic boom with roads and railways encroaching on the forests and disrupting mating patterns.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves and the best place to see them is at Dujiangyan Panda Base an hour's drive north of Chengdu and the nearby Panda Conservation Center where travelers can see the feeding of the younger cubs.

WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO


Become a Panda Ambassador with the World Wildlife Fund and play an active role in local and global initiatives the organisation undertakes with education symposiums fundraising drives and helping raise awareness of the issues.

THE DETAILS


Book a Wendy Wu China tour that includes visits to see giant pandas. 

BLACK RHINOS


THE HABITATS


This vegetarian species lives in savannah and woodland areas of southern and eastern Africa: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya.

STATUS


Black rhinos are classified by the IUCN as critically endangered with three subspecies declared extinct in 2011 and only about 5000 black rhino left in the wild after 96% of the population was wiped out by poachers between 1960 and 1995. Demand for illegally trafficked rhino horn remains particularly very high in Asia where it is considered a status symbol and an ingredient in bogus medicinal uses. Anti poaching measures are now seeing the population lift slightly.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


There are a lot of conservation projects in wildlife areas of Africa with safaris through the regions. The greatest numbers are in South Africa and Kenya.

THE DETAILS


Book an African safari through a reputable company like Bench Africa. 

BORNEAN AND SUMATRAN ORANG-UTANS



THE HABITATS


These 2 species of tree dwelling animals are solitary known for their intelligence even making simple tools and forage in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

STATUS


Once found throughout south east Asia they are now confined to two islands with their numbers more than halved over the past 60 years because of humans advancing into their forests and poaching them for their meat and to be used as pets. They are now both considered highly endangered.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


One of the best places ever is at Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park and its orang-utan sanctuary, Camp Leakey that works with the animals in their natural habitat. Cruise line Silversea has partnered Camp Leakey and takes guests on cruises around the region to the camp.

THE DETAILS


Check out Silversea Cruises for their next voyage.

POLAR BEARS


THE HABITATS


The floating sea ice of the Arctic with the mammals being good swimmers who spend 50% of their time hunting for food their favourite tidbits being seals.

STATUS


With their habit in dire straits through global warming melting the ice they were listed as one of threatened species in 2008 and are now considered to be vulnerable with a dramatically reduced population possibly as low as 22,000.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


An Arctic cruise is the best way to see polar bears, with an operator like Scenic that uses Zodiacs and kayaks to travel close to ice floes to see the bears.

THE DETAILS


The ship Scenic Eclipse that can cruise into tiny harbors and through fiords. 

GIANT TORTOISES


THE HABITATS


Giant tortoises, the largest living tortoises in the world, are found on the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador in South America, where they feed on fruit, grasses, leaves and vines sometimes till up to 200 years of age.

STATUS


They are now listed as vulnerable after hunting them for food their shells and for the oil that can be harvested from them nearly wiped them out in the early days. These days their eggs are often threatened by introduced species like dogs, cats, rats, and pigs and it's estimated that only about 15,000 remain. Lonesome George the world well known single surviving tortoise from Pinta Island in the north of the Galapagos died in 2012 all efforts to find him a mate failed. That sub species is now extinct.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a sure fire way to see them as, once sighted they of course move very slowly. World Expeditions runs a hike bike and kayak trip around the islands after a flight from Quito or Guayaquil.

WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO


Adopt a giant tortoise through the WWF and receive a plush toy to remind you of your charge and a photo of your adoptee.

THE DETAILS


World Expeditions has regular trips to the Galapagos. 

SNOW LEOPARDS


THE HABITATS


Snow leopards like steep rugged terrain with cliffs and gullies and can be found in the mountains of Afghanistan,China ,Bhutan ,Kyrgyzstan ,India , Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Myanmar.

STATUS


They are endangered with only about 4000 thought to exist in the wild. They have been poached or killed by livestock shepherds worried about their herds and there's also been a shortage of prey.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


Intrepid runs tours to the wild west of Mongolia, where snow leopards live. They hare elusive and tricky to spot but you might be lucky.

THE DETAILS


Intrepid's 15 day Mongolia expedition starts and ends in Ulaanbaatar, mountains ,around lakes, ibex, nomads, eagle hunters and maybe snow leopards. 

KOALAS


THE HABITATS


Koalas live in low woodland in tall eucalypt forests or on coastal islands where their favorite types of gum leaves grow. They are found today in NSW the ACT, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

STATUS


They are officially classified as vulnerable everywhere but Victoria and South Australia because of tree clearing habitat destruction domestic dog attacks bush fires, road accidents and diseases like chlamydia. The Australian Koala Foundation believes there are now as few as 43,000 in the wild and their status should be upgraded to critically endangered in south east Queensland as the government has declared them to be functionally extinct there. The WWF says they could be extinct in NSW as well by 2050.

HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM


There are koala sanctuaries all around Australia including the Hidden Vale Wildlife Center in Grandchester an hour's drive west of Brisbane. The center is conducting a 12 month koala research program and is part of the luxury Spicers Retreats group.

THE DETAILS


Book in advance for the two-hour Hidden Vale expedition Tuesdays to Fridays at 2.30pm costing $75 a person with 75% going to the research project. 

FIVE SPECIES THAT HAVE BEEN SAVED


THE ARABIAN ORYX, MIDDLE EAST


The Arabian oryx was hunted to extinction in the wild but there are about 1000 back in the wild after Phoenix Zoo undertook a breeding program with its captive population.

THE SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE, AUSTRALIA


The southern right whale was nearly extinct by the middle of the 19th century because of the whaling industry but since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling its population has increased dramatically and they now appear regularly off the Australian coast.

SOUTHERN WHITE RHINOS, AFRICA


Southern white rhinos were once thought to be extinct but now have a population of more than 20,000 thanks to conservation campaigns in Namibia, Kenya ,Zimbabwe and South Africa.

THE CORROBOREE FROG, AUSTRALIA


The corroboree frog was about to get wiped out by a virulent fungus but zoos like Taronga in Sydney have bred big numbers and relocated them to disease free environments.

THE GRIZZLY BEAR, NORTH AMERICA


The grizzly bear was once in dire straits due to hunting a loss of habitat hunting and low birth rates. In Yellowstone National Park where they are one of the most iconic species numbers are up to about 600, with a further 55,000 throughout the Alaska and US .

TEN MORE SPECIES TO SEE BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE


AMUR LEOPARDS, RUSSIA


Amur leopards live in the forests of the Russian Far East and are on the brink of extinction with fewer than 70 left in the wild because of poaching losing habitat and in breeding. 2 cubs were born last year at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park they will later be released into the wild. 

BLACK-FLANKED ROCK WALLABIES, AUSTRALIA


These marsupials live on rocky outcrops around Western Australia's mid-west and were believed to be extinct because of feral predators and overgrazing. But they are now making a comeback after a number were transported to the state's Kalbarri National Park 150 kilometers north of Geraldton where there's now thought to be 100. 

PANGOLINS, ASIA AND AFRICA


Pangolins or scaly anteaters are found in tropical forests and woodlands in Malaysia,China ,India , Singapore and parts of southern and eastern Africa. The most trafficked animals in the whole world for their keratin scales and meat mistakenly believed to cure illnesses they are now critically endangered. Wildlife Reserves Singapore has a number and runs night time safaris.

VAQUITA PORPOISE, NORTH AMERICA


The vaquita species of porpoise is found in the northern part of the bay of California, in North America and Mexico, but is critically endangered with only 12 to 15 animals thought to be left after being ravaged by gillnets and killed by commercial shrimp trawlers. The best chance of a glimpse is on an adventure cruise in Baja on the California Peninsula in Mexico. 

WHOOPING CRANES, NORTH AMERICA


These birds live on marshland in Texas and Florida in the US, and Alberta Canada but hunting habitat loss and feral cats and wolves reduced their number to just 16 in the wild at one point. Now breeding programs have produced 400 more. The birds migrate to Texas every October. 

NORTHERN QUOLLS, AUSTRALIA


Although found in the Northern Territory, the Kimberley, Cape York and Pilbara, northern quolls remain endangered due to eating poisonous cane toads. They have increased in number in protected non toad areas and there are projects to train them in toad-avoidance. The best place to see them is the Territory Wildlife Park at Berry Springs, 45 kilometers south of Darwin.

PYGMY ELEPHANTS, SOUTH-EAST ASIA


Pygmy elephants dwell in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. With perhaps only 1500 remaining their future is at risk because of rain forests being cleared for palm oil production. Rustic Borneo Travel can add an excursion to see pygmy elephants onto independent travel.

BENGAL TIGERS, INDIA


Endangered through poaching for their beautiful furs Bengal tigers are now increasingly at risk from global warming leading to rising sea levels around the mangroves between Bangladesh and India. The cruise ship MV Mahabaahu cruises India's Brahmaputra River in the region. 

SEA OTTERS, NORTH AMERICA


Sea otters live in shallow coastal waters around Alaska, Washington and British Columbia are highly vulnerable with hundreds of thousands wiped out by the commercial fur trade and decimated by oil spills pollution and killer whales. Norwegian Cruise Line operates regular cruises to Alaska. 

TASMANIAN DEVILS, AUSTRALIA


These creatures were once found all over Australia but are now only found in Tasmania where they are endangered due to competition for food loss of habitat and Devil Facial Tumour Disease a highly dangerous and contagious cancer. Wildlife sanctuary Trowunna in the town of Mole Creek in Tasmania's central north houses the world's largest heritage population.


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