It may be easy to determine the state or country with the highest number of endangered species, but would you know which continent has the most? It may be easy to name several of the more talked-about endangered species of the world from the top of your head. But when you take into account the fact that many species have been taken to other areas from their native habitats and also the fact that most countries (like the U.S.) are still in the process of evaluating their endangered species, it becomes harder to determine the continent with the highest number. In addition, more species are being discovered every day—and more and more are being added to the list of endangered or threatened species.
Categorizing endangered species by continent isn’t really fair, because of the differences in the sizes of the continents. However, there are other differences to remember, such as the fact that certain areas of some continents are more or less inhabitable than others. Certain climates that are harsher than others cannot sustain as high a number of species as the more temperate ones. However, each area is unique in its biodiversity, and each continent has its own set of native species.
Two Continents Stand Out
When it comes to mammals, both Asia and South America are pretty high on the scale for having many endangered. In fact, both continents have a higher number of endangered amphibians than most other continents as well, and Asia even has a large number of threatened corals (and they share several with Australia). So it seems to be the consensus that overall, Asia is the continent with the highest number of endangered species.
However, it’s really not so clear-cut. The United States, of course, has a rather high number of endangered species; but Canada’s list is very low, so that balances North America somewhere in the middle. If the U.S. were its own continent, it would be the clear list-topper by far. But for now, Asia and South America are the continents with the most species considered endangered.
What are some examples of Asia’s endangered species?
- Sumatran Tiger
- Asian Elephant
- Snow Leopard
The Giant Panda is probably the most recognizable of Asia’s endangered animals. Native only to western and central China, the panda is endangered for several reasons, poaching and habitat destruction being the most prominent. Bamboo, the panda’s main source of food, is also becoming extremely rare, and pandas have often been poached but are now legally protected. Panda reserves are being created and habitats are being preserved in an effort to save the species.
The Sumatran Tiger is also very recognizable as an endangered species, as it is currently extinct in several countries. Like many animals, tigers have often been killed by farmers to protect their livestock, and the entire population of tigers that roam the wild is considered endangered—some critically. Despite the ban on trading tiger parts for medicine or furs, illegal trade still continues, causing even more peril for the beautiful species.
The Sumatran orangutan is one of the two types of orangutan—and both are on the endangered list. The Sumatran orangutan is rarer than its Bornean counterpart, although the Sumatran orangutan has an estimated 7,000 animals remaining on Earth as of 2015. The Sumatran orangutan has been captured to breed in captivity, but it was discovered that some orangutans did not know how to behave when returned to the wild.
The Asian elephant can be found in several of the countries on the Asian continent, and there are somewhere between 34,000 to 54,000 elephants roaming the wild. While that may seem like a fair amount, the population has decreased mostly due to poaching for ivory and loss of habitat. The elephants’ conservation has largely consisted of moving them to European zoos, where they are protected but have a shorter lifespan.
A cousin to the tiger, the snow leopard is unfortunately not offered much protection in its native areas. Leopards also are hunted by farmers or have their habitats and prey disrupted or destroyed. Leopards are also endangered due to military conflict in recent years, and they are hunted for their fur as well.
While these are only a handful of Asia’s endangered species, these examples are sad reminders of the reasons that Asia has the highest number of species on the endangered list. Since South America is not far behind, perhaps several countries can work together to reduce the list for both continents. Perhaps one day all the continents of the world can work together to help preserve all threatened species, and the pandas, tigers, and elephants—in addition to the countless other species listed—will not go extinct.
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