Asiatic Lion

I was thinking of what endangered animal I could talk about today and since I have quite a few friends here from India, the animal I’m going to discuss today comes from western India’s Gir National Park. The Asiatic lion at one time roamed the entire continent of Asia and the Middle East. Today, the entire species lives in the Gir National Park where it’s protected.

When you think of where a lion comes from, your first thought is probably the zoo. Well, there are lions in the zoo but that’s not their natural habitat though it looks like it is. Your next thought is probably to think of the Lion King which means Africa. Well, you would be right except that what most people don’t realize is that there is another species of lion besides the common African lion. The scientific name for the Asiatic lion is Panthera leo persica. African lions are Panthera leo. These lions are also known as Asia Lion or Indian Lion. Asiatic lions look similar to their African cousins however they are smaller in physical size and appearance. Appearance wise, they have a very distinctive flap of skin that runs from their chest and across their stomach covering their underside. It ranges in color from a ruddy shade to a silver shade. Another striking difference is the males of the species have smaller, less fluffy manes than their African cousins so you can always see the ears of an Asiatic lion. Height wise, the male Asian lion is about the same height as a female African lioness — 3.6 feet high (110 cm).

Asian lions have prides just like African lions. Their prides are smaller though; only consisting of 2 or 3 females versus a dozen or more. They hunt in packs but they go for smaller prey such as deer, antelope, boar and chital. Sometimes the whole pride is not necessary to hunt and a female lion can take down prey alone. Mating season takes place all year round for the most part. A female lioness can bear up to 6 cubs in a litter. Baby Asian lion cubs open their eyes at 11 days old, walk at 15 days old and are running by a month old. Females become sexually mature at 4 years old and can live to be about 18 in the wild.

Like I said earlier, the entire population of Asiatic lions can only be found in the teak and deciduous forests ans savannas of the Gir National Park where they are federally protected. To date there are a little over 400 individuals and the population seems to be on the incline but the species is still listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red list. Major threats to this species include habitat fragmentation, poison, illegal poaching, inbreeding, drowning and possible bad weather. Habitat fragmentation is a little different than habitat destruction. There are 3 big temples, major roads and a railway that runs through one of the protected areas of the National Park. They attract a lot of pilgrims which could potentially increase human-animal interaction. Farmers in surrounding areas also put up electric fences or poisoned prey to capture the lions as they are a threat to livestock. Poaching still occurs unfortunately even though it’s illegal and since the population is so small, the gene pool is not very diverse. There are wells throughout the area that are not barricade properly so if a lion falls into one, they will drown. Lastly, conservationists are constantly monitoring the weather because one catastrophic wildfire or flood could wipe out the entire species to extinction.

Besides federally protecting the area, there are conservation programs in effect to bring up the population. There’s an initiative to get the 100+ wells barricaded to decrease the chance of lions falling in. There are also breeding programs across parts of India to help boost the population and diversify the genetic pool. Locals in the community are working with the government to patrol the area for poachers. They consider the lion not only the king of the jungle but a symbol of strength and power especially since it’s a religious icon in Hinduism; the goddess Durga rides a lion and the god Narasimha is half lion.

If you’re interested in donating to the cause of protecting this species as well as other endangered Indian animals, check out WWF India here.

Sources: (OurEndangeredWorld, WWFIndia, NatGeo, AnimalSpot)

Image Sources: (BBC, DiscoverWildlife, ChesterZoo)

Philippine Eagle

Today’s endangered species comes to us all the way from the Philippines. The Philippine eagle is the largest eagle in the world. Other names for this raptor includes “Monkey-eating eagle” and “Aguila Monera”. As it’s name suggests, it is endemic to the Philippines. Four specific islands to be exact: Luzon, Leyte Mindanao and Samar. The population used to be widespread across all of the islands but due to threats which will we get to later on, the population size decreased. Philippine eagles are found in dipterocarp trees in the rainforests of the Philippines. Dipterocarp trees are basically hardwood trees with winged seeds and are very dominant in lowland, tropical forests of Asia.

When you think of an eagle, most automatically imagine the looks of a bald eagle. Philippine eagles have slightly different colorings than a bald or golden eagle and because it’s the largest eagle in the world, it’s bigger. Both male and female Philippine eagles can grow to a height of about 3 feet (1 meter) with a wingspan of 7 feet (2 meters) with a weight of 14 pounds (6.5 kilograms) or more. The underbelly of a Philippine eagle is snowy white with their back being a chocolate brown as well as the feathers on their crown. The crown is one of the distinctive traits of that make the Philippine eagle different from other eagle species. It has a crown it can puff out, sort of like a peacock’s feathers, at will and from afar it looks like a mane. Another distinctive feature is it’s bright blue eyes. In fact, its the only bird of prey in the world to possess blue eyes. The beak is also a greyish-blue color and has a large arch to it.

The diet of this species is as it’s secondary name suggests. Philippine eagles mainly dine on monkeys, flying lemurs and other small primates. They will also eat rats, snakes, flying squirrels, bats, and even small deer. They hunt in pairs or alone. Pairs have been observed hunting where one serves as the decoy while the other captures prey. Philippine eagles are pretty monogamous. I say pretty because when they do mate, they will mate for life but if a mate dies, it’s not uncommon for the eagle to find another mate. Breeding season occurs in September. Mates will lay one egg every two years in a nest high up in the canopy of the jungle. Offspring rely on their parents for at least a year before going off on their own.  Philippine eagles can live up to 50 years.

Philippine eagles are listed on the IUCN red list as Critically Endangered. It is thought that there are less than 500 individuals left in the wild. The major threat to this species is habitat destruction. Due to logging and agricultural ventures, a lot of the forest that this species relies on has been decimated. Pesticides have also been on the rise and affects the diet of these birds and reduces their reproduction rate.  Poaching is also a major threat. Even though their are laws in place, people still claim to shoot the birds out of fear if not for sport.

There have been steps taken to save this species. It’s not only biologically important but it’s also essential for the Philippine heritage. It is the country’s national bird and has been represented in many aspects of the Philippine culture. It’s also an apex predator and keystone species for the ecosystem. There are a few programs as well as legislation have been instated to preserve the species habitat. There are a couple of eagles in captivity for reintroduction programs and there are monetary incentives to the natives to help keep the forest healthy.

If you would like to donate to help the Philippine eagle cause or gain more information, click the link here. All of the eagles have currently been adopted but you can still view all 33 of them and see their stories.

(Sources: OurEndangeredWorld, Philippine Eagle Foundation, Arkive)

(Image Source: Featured, Post)

Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

The species being discussed today hails all the way from Australia! I originally was going to write about a different animal but then I saw a Facebook video this morning about an animal sanctuary that featured some endemic, endangered animals like the Tasmanian devil and realized the wombat would be cooler to talk about. There are three main types of wombats. The common wombat, the northern hairy-nosed wombat and the southern hairy-nosed wombat. The common wombat occupies coastal areas while the northern and southern wombats prefer much a much drier habitat so are found inland. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are the biggest of the three species weighing in at about 32 kg (70 lbs) while the southern hairy-nosed wombat weighs the least amount; 26 kg (57 lbs). They have a bit of a stocky build with large paws and claws that allow them to build burrows that they stay in most of the time. When they walk, their bodies kind of sway from side to side because of their bulk but they are quite fast; averaging about 40 km/hr (about 24 mph) over short distances.

As I mentioned before, this species is endemic to Australia. This means you will not find it in the wild anywhere else in the world. Fossil records show that the species range used to be from south central New South Wales and central Queensland. It’s now restricted to Epping Forest National Park. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are 100% herbivores. Grass is their primary source of food so they burrow in areas of this forest where there is a year round supply. This species is very shy and nocturnal. They have extensive burrows usually starting at the base of native bauhina trees where they scent mark the entrances with dung or urine. The temperature of the burrows varies depending on the season. In summer, burrow temperatures can reach as high as 82ºF (28ºC) and in winter as low as 53ºF (12ºC). Breeding occurs in the summer months, or the wet season, which occurs from November to April. Females are sexually mature around 2.5 to 3 years and will carry offspring in their pouch for eight or nine months.

Northern hairy-nosed wombats have been endangered since 1982. At one time in the early 1920’s, it was thought the species was extinct but it was discovered again in the 1930’s. In 1982 when the species was declared endangered, a consensus showed there was only about 30 individuals left in the wild. By the 1960’s, a capture and release program was implemented to count the number of individuals and this showed that the number had increased to 63. However, the capture and release program was extremely stressful on the species so conservationists changed methods and would use tape to collect hair samples at burrows and run DNA tests instead. By 2000, the species count had grown to 113 and by 2010 it was up to 163. At last count in 2016, it was estimated that there are a total of 240 Northern hairy-nosed wombats in Epping Forest National Park.

Even though population numbers have been on the rise, the species is still listed as critically endangered. The major threat to this species is habitat destruction and disruption from cattle farming. There are also natural threats such as drought, wildfires and predation. Their genetic pool is also very low which makes them easily prone to diseases. Conservation efforts have been implemented for many years. There is a predator proof fence in Epping Forest National Park and continued monitoring and research of the wombats is ongoing. There are also fire management protocols as well as weed management. Because this small population is so critical, and one natural disaster can wipe out the entire population, conservationists have relocated a few individuals to Richard Underwood Natural Refuge where they monitor the population and manage predators hoping the Northern hairy-nosed wombat will thrive here as well.

(Sources: TheConservation, QueenslandGov’t)

(Image Sources: AustralianAnimalLearning, AusGeo, QldGov)

Painted Hunting Dog

Today’s endangered animal comes to you from southern Africa; specifically northern Botswana, western Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia and western Zambia. The species goes by many names: Painted Hunting dog, African wild dog or the Cape Hunting Dog.

The name Painted Hunting dog is derived from the splotchy markings on the dog’s coat. Each dog has its own unique markings that other pack members are able to identify. African wild dogs grow to be about 30 inches tall (which is a little over 2 feet), be about 30-56 inches long (2 feet-5 feet) and will weigh about 40 to 70 pounds as adults. Their preferred habitat is low grassy areas such as savannas, semi-desert areas or upland forests. African wild dogs are highly social individuals. Pack sizes can average about 10 to 40 or more individuals. Their primary prey are gazelles and antelopes such as the Impala, Greater Kudu and Thomson’s Gazelle. However, they have been known to take down larger prey such as wildebeest and African buffalo. If food is scarce, they’ll go for smaller prey such as hares, lizards and eggs but that’s a very small diet in comparison to what they normally eat. Painted hunting dogs can reach run speeds up to 45 mph.

Pack structure where reproduction is concerned involves the alpha male and alpha female producing offspring and the remaining individuals of the pack help to take care of the litter. It has been suggested that females of the pack become mature around 3 years of age. Litter size can very but African wild dogs are known to produce up to 16 pups in a pack per year. Most mammal species, when having a sick or disabled offspring or member, that member is usually left behind or killed. African wild dogs are one of the few mammal species who actually take care of their sick or disabled pups. Majority of the pack are usually males.

In 1990, African wild dogs were classified on the IUCN Red List as endangered and they have maintained that status since with the population consistently decreasing. There are thought to be only about 6600 or less individuals left in the wild. The major threat to African wild dogs are habitat loss and fragmentation. Humans have moved into their territory and have begun to overpopulate the area. This creates human-wildlife conflict and spread of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be spread between humans an animals). Rabies is one example of a zoonotic disease that can pass from animals to humans. Because humans are taking over, African wild dogs end up becoming in danger of predation from larger animals like Lions and hyenas who are picking them off while they’re trying to hunt their prey.

Conservation efforts have been ongoing as much as possible. There are strategies in place for a few areas in Africa. In some areas this involves capture and release where conservationists give the dogs rabies shots and then release them in order to lower the spread of disease. They also aim to keep the gene pool diverse by creating packs with orphaned pups. There are also outreach programs in place so that the general public can educate themselves and the general perception of the painted hunting dog can change for the better.

If this story moved you a little today, consider adopting an African Wild Dog here.

(Sources: WWF, IUCN, OurEndangeredWorld)

Albany Adder

Don’t freak out but snakes are important too! Today’s endangered species is one of the most endangered reptiles in the world; the Albany adder. The picture makes the snake look huge but most Albany adders are 12 inches or less in length. There is not too much about this species so this post is sadly, going to be a little short.

The Albany adder hails from South Africa. It’s actually endemic to a very specific area; more on that in a bit. Of the couple sources I read, there’s conflicting information on when the Albany adder was first discovered. Some say 1937 but others say the early 1990s but what they both agree on is that only about 12 individuals have been recorded in all that time with the last sighting being in 2007. The Albany adder almost looks like a mini dragon to me. It has these protruding tufts above its eyes that almost resemble horns, long fangs that they can fold against the roof of their mouth when they’re not using them and has a black and white scale pattern. The Albany adder is part of the viper family. This means it is most probably venomous and uses that venom to take down prey. Albany adders are viviparous. This means instead of laying eggs, they have live births.

In order for an animal to be classified as extinct, it has to not have been seen or recorded in 10 years. This year, the Albany adder was almost considered extinct until a field officer came across  not one, not two but four! Scientists were naturally ecstatic about this and shouted it to the heavens. But, remember I said the Albany adder is endemic to an area of South Africa. This area is on the classified need to know basis. That means only a handful of people know where this snake can be found in order to study it’s behavior, habitat, and other interactions. The reason they don’t want people to know more is because they’re afraid the snake will become a target for poachers. What poachers don’t know, they can’t utilize for profit. Like most venomous snakes, scientists sometimes take the risk of being bitten by one in order to diagnose the symptoms the venom causes and a cure for that snake’s bite. That hasn’t with the Albany adder (yet).

For now, the Albany adder is not officially listed on the IUCN Red list but it is considered to be critically endangered. However, because of this extraordinary find, scientists hope to learn more so they can present a case on why this species needs to be protected from extinction before it it goes extinct for real.

(Sources: Arkive, NatGeo, EarthTouch)

(Images: NatGeo1, NatGeo2)

Vaquita Revisited

Today’s endangered animal has been discussed on RT in the past. In fact, it was one of the first 5 posts when this series was started. I would like to revisit the species today to shed some more detail on this unique creature dubbed “the panda of the sea” because I came across an article that just makes me so sad for it.

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), also known as the Gulf Porpoise can only be find in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Although this species lives primarily in the sea, it is a mammal which means, unlike a fish who draws oxygen from water through their gill system, it breathes air. In fact, they can be grouped with the likes of dolphins, whales, tusked narwhals and other cetaceans (scientific term for marine mammals). They can hold their breath for some time but ultimately have to come up for air like majority of mammals including humans. Vaquita are the “panda of the sea” due to the unique markings on their face. Just like a panda, around the eyes are dark rings and dark lips that curve and make the vaquita look like a smiling panda. It’s dark grey in color on the top of it’s body and pale gray on the sides. The reason they can only be found in the Gulf of California is because this area is relatively shallow water but has a very diverse marine ecology. Vaquita feed on benthic fishes, squids and crustaceans. Benthic fishes are better known as bottom feeders. They stay closer to the sea floor where there’s rock, mud and sand. Like last week’s post where I discussed a bat’s capability in using sonar, vaquita utilize the same type of sonar to communicate in the sea. Mating season for vaquita occurs in the spring time; April and May. Mature females will give birth to one offspring every two years and gestation period is usually around 10 months. Adult vaquita average about 5 feet in length and can weigh about 120 pounds.

Back to why I wanted to revisit this species, the threat of extinction has become very real for this species. As of today, there are less than 30 individuals left in the wild with extinction being predicted to occur as early as next year. Vaquita were first listed as vulnerable in 1986; just 28 years after they were discovered in the first place. By 1990, their status was upped from Vulnerable to Endangered and by 1996 they were critically endangered and have been ever since. The major threat to this species is through fishing bycatch. What that means is, fishermen are throwing out gillnets with various mesh sizes to capture other marine fish species and the vaquita get caught up in the net and drown. Ironically enough, since the mid 1970’s the fish species that was being captured is also critically endangered; the totoaba. Because of the totoaba’s status, selling them has been banned. However, that basically opened the doors to illegal trade and people still fish for the totoaba, without care for the vaquita, because their swim bladders are worth $4000 USD per pound.

Because the vaquita are so critically endangered, the government of Mexico as well as many wildlife and conservation divisions of the United States have really started to try and take action to preserve the last individuals of this species. Measures even included capturing some of them into marine reserve captivity to hopefully boost reproduction numbers but the one vaquita that was brought into captivity did not survive very long. An autopsy has been scheduled in order to figure out why the vaquita died in the hopes that scientists and conservationists can understand what they may be doing wrong. At this point, it’s definitely a race against time. Protocols, guidelines and anything else that can be developed in order to sustain the decline of this population is going on as I type this post to you.

If you’ve read this plight and would like to do something to help this species, you can always donate to the World Wildlife Fund or adopt a vaquita at

(Sources: IUCN, Defenders of Wildlife, WWF)

Mexican Long-Nosed Bat

In the spirit of Halloween passed, today’s endangered animal is the Mexican long-nosed bat or Leptonycteris nivalis. For starters, not much is known about the range of this species. The Mexican long-nosed bat is reported to be seen in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as Mexico and Guatemala. The reason the range is not specifically known is because scientists have not been able to pinpoint the migratory pattern of the species. Population size of roosts can range from zero to 10,000 individuals in a single year but it is suspected that the overall general population of the species is definitely declining. Fun fact: When you think of a flying creature, it’s usually a bird however, bats are the only mammals that can fly.

The Mexican Long-nosed bat is named exactly that for a reason. It’s muzzle is longer than the average, American bat species and it has what’s known as a noseleaf at the very tip of it’s muzzle. In order to explain the noseleaf’s function, we have to start with echolocation. Echolocation is a form of communication that certain animal species use to orient themselves with their surroundings. It’s a form of sonar which consists of the animal emitting calls out into their environment and receiving information back in the form of echos or sound waves. This enables the species to navigate their surroundings without actually “seeing” where they’re going. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “blind as a bat” that’s because bats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on echolocation. The noseleaf on the Mexican Long-nosed bat, focuses the echolocation calls emitted greatly enhancing their view of the world so to speak. Other distinguishing features of this species from other bats is its size — about 2.75 to 3.75 inches in total length with a 14 inch wingspan, and it has a 3 inch long tongue. The coloring of this bat varies between gray and sooty brown and they have long, fluffy fur.

As previously stated, the Mexican Long-nosed bat can range in roost size up to 10,000 individuals. When it’s time to eat, the bats will emerge after sunset and feed on flower species that open at night such as agave, cacti and century plants. This species not only drinks the nectar, it also consumes the pollen because the pollen is a high protein source and provides vitamins and minerals that keep these bat’s fur nice and shiny. The Mexican Long-nose bats are adept fliers and are able to hover and feed at the same time like hummingbirds because of that long tongue. This species will follow the flowering periods of agave. They start North, in the US states and then migrate South to Mexico in winter most of the time. Breeding season occurs between October and December in Mexico. A single offspring is usually born around April and May, will nurse for about a month and is able to fly by five weeks. Average life span of the Mexican Long-nosed bat is about 15-20 years.

In 1937, the Mexican Long-nosed bat species was discovered in a cave of the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Today, that’s primarily one of the only locations you can see this species as there is a protected sub-population in Emory Park of Big Bend National Park. The major threats to this species are human disturbance and destruction of their habitat as well as agave harvesting; the bats main food source. This is critical because an agave plant only flowers once then it dies and it takes 10 to 20 years to get to the flowering point. Another threat from humans stem from ranchers who have vampire bat problems. Yes, vampire bats are real however, the Mexican Long-nosed bat often gets confused with the vampire bat pests and ranchers tend to kill the many instead of the few. Conservation of this species is an ongoing process as researchers and scientists try to conduct surveys to understand the ecology better in order to put into place programs to keep the species from declining into critically endangered territory. If you ever find yourself entering a cave, be mindful of the potential disturbance and stress you can cause bat species. Best practices for viewing bats are waiting for them to come out versus going in to see them.

If you would like to learn more about bat conservation, feel free to visit Bat Conservation International (BatCon) for more information.

(Source: Texas Parks, Arkive)


Today’s endangered species is focused on the biggest flower in the world: Rafflesia magnifica aka the meat flower. Now before you say, “I could have sworn I saw this flower in a botanical gardens!”, I assure you, you’re wrong. This particular species is only found in one location in the world. That’s right, if you don’t already live in the Phillipines, you’d have to hop on a plane and fly to the Mt. Candalaga mountain range in Compostela Valley to see the few of these that are left. Although this species is only found in such a small area, all species of Rafflesia are listed as vulnerable or endangered in some form or another.

What makes Rafflesia so unique is that they look like your average flower but have very distinctive differences. Rafflesia do not have stems, roots, or leaves. Your average flower has a system right? The roots pull nutrients and water from the Earth, up through their roots where it then gets turned into chlorophyll, glucose and other compounds a flower needs to grow strong and have vibrant colors. It also pulls energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Rafflesia don’t do any of that. Even though their coloring is brilliantly vibrant, it’s not due to the sun or nutrients from the Earth. Rafflesia are actually parasitic plants and the only way for them to grow is from leeching off one particular host. The only host that can create a Rafflesia flower is the Tetrastigma vine. The Rafflesia spreads its root like tentacle things under the tissue of the Tetrastigma vine and absorbs the sap until it matures. It literally starts out as a piece of tissue and is completely dependent on this grapevine relative in order to grow into a flower. The flower itself is characterized by its five-petalled formation, that can grow to be 5 inches or more in diameter, and also by it’s smell. Rafflesia do not smell like roses, let me tell you. They are called the meat flower for a reason. If you want to smell death, just walk up to a Rafflesia. They smell like rotting corpses.

Rafflesia magnifica are listed on the IUCN list as critically endangered. This particular species was discovered in 2005 and was listed as critically endangered in 2008. The major threat to the species is habitat loss to banana plantations. Scientists who went out to survey the area found a few clusters of Rafflesia magnifica but were only able to record males of the population. Not much has been recorded about their reproduction or life cycles because people can only recognize them when/if they bloom. Another threat to the species is ethnobotanical and illegal collecting. Ethnobotanical collecting is when humans collect plant species in order to study it’s uses to the local culture. Sadly, no conversation efforts have been put into place for this species. Maybe through spreading more awareness will the plight of this species come to light.

(Sources: Feat.ImgIUCN, WWF, Gaia)

Endangered Categories

I planned to write about another animal today but I realized I never made an initial post outlining the IUCN categories that animals are placed in based off their population size. Today, I am going to share these categories with you so going forward you can understand the threat level animals, and sometimes plants I talk about, are facing.

EX – Stands for extinct. This means that there is no trace or evidence of this species being alive anywhere in the world anymore. Either habitat loss, hunting, hybridization diluted the original DNA, or anything else you can possibly think of that caused this animal/plant to cease to exist. Think dinosaurs.

EW – Stands for extinct in the wild. This means that you will not see this species anywhere in its natural habitat assuming said habitat has not been destroyed. If you want to see the species alive somewhere, it’s probably in a zoo or wild life refuge that focuses on trying to breed the last individuals and grow their population in order to release them back in the wild. This also means they are working to restore the habitats as well because you can bring the population back but if they don’t have a thriving place to live, it won’t help them in the long run.

CR – Stands for critically endangered. This means the species is endangered of going extinct in the wild or extinct completely. Not all animals do well in captivity so sometimes they are at risk of skipping the EW step and going straight to the EX step. One of my very first posts was for the Northern White Rhino. There is only one individual in existence. His status is critically endangered because he still lives in a very, very protected wild.

EN – Stands for endangered. This means that the species population is declining rather quickly and at the rate it’s going, the species may have to be listed to CR. Lots of monitoring and surveys begin at this step in order to figure out why the population is rapidly declining and analyze what steps need to be taken to ensure the species doesn’t hit the red.

VU – Stands for vulnerable. This means the species numbers are doing okay but because of certain human activities or climate change, for example, the populations may become affected over time. Reproduction rates are monitored here to make sure offspring are being born and surviving. The risk of endangerment is evident but it hasn’t quite reached that point yet.

NT – Stands for near threatened. This is similar to vulnerable but it’s a projection of what could happen in the future if the rate of activities and habitat trends surrounding the species continues.

LC – Stands for least concern. This means the population is thriving, the habitat is thriving, there is no reason to focus on this species because it’s doing well enough on it’s own. Think deer or hey, humans.

There is also the DD category that’s not listed in the picture but that means not enough data has been collected in order to assess which category a species fits in.

I hope you find this post informative. I mainly focus on species that are EN and up. However, I haven’t actually talked about a species that’s completely extinct. Would that be something you all would be interested in? It won’t be dinosaurs I’m afraid but I can talk about some species that have recently gone extinct if that sounds cool. Let me know in the comments below!

Bactrian Camel

Today’s endangered species is brought to you by the family Camelidae. Fun fact. Camels were once native to North America before the age of humans. Unfortunately, humans hunted a lot and they ended up going extinct. Now before you say, “But I see camels in the zoo all the time!”, I know you do. That would be because camels were reintroduced domestically to the continent. Now, there are two types of camels; the Camelus ferus (Bactrian or two humped camel) and C. dromedarius (Dromedary or one humped camel). Bactrian camel is the species we are focusing on today. It should be also noted that I am talking about the wild Bactrian camel as opposed to its domestic counterparts which are listed under Camelus bactriarus.

The Bactrian camel hails from China and Mongolia. Historically, they spanned the all across both these countries but today they are mainly found in the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts. Bactrian camels have evolved to be able to handle harsh desert conditions. They weigh anywhere between 650-1500 pounds (350-690 kg) and they are about 5.9-7.5 feet (180-230 cm) tall. Their heads rise above their shoulders allowing them to tower at almost 12 feet (365 cm) tall and their tails are 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) long. Bactrian camels have long, shaggy, beige colored fur in the winter and they shed it almost completely in the summer. They also have a double row of eyelashes and thick hairs in their ears to protect against sand. Their nostrils are slit-like and they are able to close them when sandstorms are really harsh. Their feet are different from what you might imagine a camel to have. Instead of hooves, they have big, flat padded soles that help them hold their weight and navigate rocky, desert terrain.

Bactrian camels are diurnal; which means they are most active during the day. They are also herbivores. Because they live in a desert climate, and vegetation can be scarce, they are one of the only land mammals adapted to eating thorns, dry shrubs and salty plants. Most animals avoid those. They are also to consume a mass quantities of water. In fact, they are only mammal in the world that can drink brackish, salty water and have no ill effects. They are able to consume up to 15 gallons (57 litres) of water in one sitting. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it is not water that is stored in their humps, its fat. They are able to go days without food or water living off their fat reserves however, they must replenish them whenever water is available. Bactrian camels are migratory creatures; travelling in herd sizes anywhere between 6 and 20. Females reach sexual maturity around 5 years of age and usually have their offspring in the winter or rainy season. Their lifespan is typically 40-50 years in the wold.

Bactrian camels have been listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered since 2007. There are less than 950 individuals left. There are a myriad of threats to this species. The major one is hunting. Bactrian camels are still consistently hunted for meat and sport. Another major threat is reduction in water available. The area in which they live has experienced extreme droughts which dry up the oasis’ they usually frequent and makes them extremely vulnerable to wolves. Hybridization is another threat to the Bactrian camel because their genetic diversity is slowly declining. Lastly, and this one is a real doozy, occurs from habitat loss. Bactrian are so evolved that they were able to survive nuclear tests over the last 75 years! That’s right people, they’re immune to radiation effects and yet, humans are trying to claim their habitat in order to mine. Boggles the mind, truly.

Conservation efforts are underway; slowly but surely. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation is a breeding program established in Mongolia hoping to increase numbers with the 15 individuals in the captive population. China has also established a protected area called The Great Gobi Natural Reserve but a second protected area is definitely needed. If you’re interested in donating to the conservation of the Bactrian camel, WWF has an adopt a bactrian plush program here.

(Sources: IUCN, EDGE)