On April 22 the world will celebrate Earth Day, but what exactly does that mean?
Back in 1970s USA students were demonstrating against the Vietnam War and counterculture was at its height. US senator Gaylord Nelson had just seen an enormous oil spill off California’s shores and wanted to get pollution on the political agenda.
He wanted to use the energy of these impassioned people and channel it towards making the world a safer, greener place. The first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans hit the streets demonstrating for the future of the planet.
As the years have passed, the movement’s grown to a global effort in which political differences are put aside and the world rallies to protect our beautiful home, Earth.
With 2019’s Earth Day round the corner we decided to look at the animals that are being hit hardest by pollution and negative human activity. These are the top 10 animals that are most likely to go extinct.
1. Great Apes – gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos.
Where they’re found: Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos can be found in various African countries. Orangutans are found in Indonesia.
Why they’re endangered: Illegal trade either for meat or captivity, and loss of habitat. Deforestation is having a huge impact on the orangutan population as they’re pushed out of their homes. Palm oil is in so many of our everyday food and beauty products and is found in the rainforest – so these primates are paying the price.
2. Sea Turtles
Where they’re found: Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, and Atlantic Ocean.
Why they’re endangered: They’re poached for the illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells. Then there’s the fact the beaches where they lay their eggs are overpopulated with humans, as well as the fact they get tangled in fishing nets. And of course the plastic infecting our oceans is making its way into 100% of sea turtles’ systems!
3. Siberian Tigers
Where they’re found: Eastern Russia’s birch forests and some in northern China and North Korea.
Why they’re endangered: Hunting, deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade have caused a 95 per cent decline in the past century. Plus their body parts are used in Chinese medicine.
Where they’re found: In each of the five oceans: Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, Southern, and Arctic, as well as some freshwater lakes and rivers.
Why they’re endangered: The finning industry plays a big part, seeing some 73 million sharks traded each year for their meat. With temperatures rising they’re moving further from their natural habitats and therefore their food supply. Also, they have an unfair, bad rep (thank you, Jaws) so many politicians feel the need to cull them to make oceans ‘safer’.
Where they’re found: In Asia elephants live in forests and in Africa they’re found on the grasslands of the savanna.
Why they’re endangered: These majestic creatures are heavily poached for the illegal trade of ivory. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their tusks. And in Asia they’re hunted for their skin. Climate change has brought on more droughts affecting their food and water supply, and with more humans, there’s less space for the elephants to roam.
Where they’re found: Just like sharks they can be found all over the globe! From the chilly temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical warmth of the seas near the equator.
Why they’re endangered: Pollution in the water from oil spills gets into their protective blubber and sometimes the females’ milk supply, affecting their health. Noise from boats and sonar systems sends them away from their habitat, and can sometimes actually knock them dead directly.
Commercial whaling is having huge impacts on the population as well as direct collisions with large boats.
Where they’re found: These long necked critters can be seen hanging out in eastern, central and southern Africa. You’ll find them on the Savannah among the tall trees and open plains.
Why they’re endangered: Illegal poaching and US trophy hunting is knocking these beauties down. Their source of food, the acacia tree, is on the decrease because of climate change. Plus, their tails are sold to make bracelets and their meat is highly coveted for status.
Where they’re found: In their colonies somewhere well hidden from predators amongst flowers. They like orchards, gardens, meadows and woodland areas. They can handle any climate from European forests, to African deserts, even to the Arctic Circle.
Why they’re endangered: The monoculture of today’s farming means that bees can no longer fly out to find a patch in bloom and summon the rest of the bees with its dance. The area they’re covering is too vast and all the same so when the bloom is over the bees have nothing else to feed on. This makes them more vulnerable to all the pesticides, and GMOs we throw over the land are killing them off.
Plus human expansion is shifting the way we use land and pushing these honey makers out of their usual spots. Of course climate change is also affecting them negatively as well.
9. Coral Reefs
Where they’re found: In tropical and subtropical oceans close to the water’s surface to get lots of sunlight. The biggest one is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and off Belize you’ll find the second biggest. Hawaii boasts one too.
Why they’re endangered: We’ve already lost a quarter of the world’s coral reefs, and with with more than 90 per cent expected to die by 2050; it’s at crisis point. Climate change is largely to blame because the oceans are becoming more acidic. This acidic excess bleaches and destroys the coral reefs.
Unsustainable tourism whereby people have stepped on or anchored into the coral reef has caused a lot of damage, as well as plastic.
Some sunscreens contain oxybenzone which is harmful, and pesticides that wash off the land, and untreated sewage all play a part in their destruction.
10. Amur Leopards
Where they’re found: Around the Russian Chinese border.
Why they’re endangered: Mainly because of poaching and incessant logging. Team that with farmland expansion and forest fires and it’s easy to see how the population has taken a hit. Currently there is estimated to be under 40 amur leopards left. With such a small gene pool they’re more vulnerable to disease and more prone to future fertility problems.