10 Animal Species That Could Vanish in 2015 if We Don't Act Now
Anyone who has ever visited a zoo has probably seen the charts depicting how this or that animal's habitat has shrunk, thanks to human encroachment, climate change or both. And while some animal rights activists oppose zoos and animal captivity, if we don't address the disappearance of their territory, many animals themselves could disappear from the face of the Earth—many of them as early as this year.
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"Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals—the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years," says Center for Biological Diversity. "We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural 'background' rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century."
And the reason for species extinction has been upended.
"Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by us—humans," says Center for Biological Diversity. "In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species and global warming."
The disappearing species include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and invertebrates such as corals, earthworms and butterflies.
Here are some of the species that may not live to see 2016, thanks to humans. The World Wildlife Fund rates all of these species "critically endangered."
1. Black Rhino. Recently a white rhino died at the San Diego Zoo, leaving only five in the world. But the black rhino is also threatened. With fewer than 5,000 left in the wild in the grasslands and deserts of coastal east Africa, they're sometimes killed for food but their double horns are a valuable product in this impoverished area. Ninety-six percent of their population was destroyed from 1970 to 1992. Conflict in countries like Sudan, Rwanda and Somalia has hampered conservation efforts.
2. Javan Rhino. Indonesia's Javan rhino is even more threatened than the black rhino, with possibly only 35 remaining. They're dying of disease and an invasive species that has destroyed their food source. Poaching already wiped out a subspecies of this rhino in Vietnam in 2010 and threatens this one as well. They also face threats from reduced genetic diversity and natural disasters such as volcanos and tsunamis.
3. Hawksbill Turtle. Found in tropical oceans, especially coral reefs, they feed on sponges, sea anemone and jellyfish and are essential to the health of coral reefs. They're fighting threats from every direction, including habitat disruption, pollution, poor fishery practices and illegal trade in their prized shells.
4. Soala. Often called the Asian unicorn, this previously unknown mammal was discovered in Vietnam in 1992. It's unclear how many there are since they tend to elude human contact, with estimates ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred. The forests of Vietnam and Laos where they live are being cut down to expand agriculture, forcing them into ever-smaller territory. Closer contact with humans means they're more hunted as well.
5. South China Tiger. This species of tiger hasn't been seen in the wild for 25 years, existing only in zoos. Although hunting them was outlawed in China in 1979 and its survival made a conservation priority there in 1995, the country's rapid development has meant that their habitat is fragmented into areas too small to support a population.
6. Yangtze Finless Porpoise. The Yangtze River was once home to two porpoise species, but one, the Baiji dolphin, was declared extinct in 2006, the first time human activity wiped a dolphin species off the planet. The Yangtze finless porpoise has a remaining population of less than 2,000 individuals and could go the same way as the Baiji if its food supply, threatened by overfishing, continues to dwindle. It's also threatened by pollution and ship movement.
7. Western Lowland Gorilla. This small gorilla, found in the dense rain forests of west central Africa, was once one of the most numerous but its population has been decimated by ebola. And while hunting them for bushmeat is illegal, timber and other companies making forays into distant forests have also made poaching and bushmeat trade easier—and facilitated the transfer of ebola to humans.
8. Vaquita. There are probably less than 100 of these rare marine animals left in the wild. They're often caught in gillnets from the illegal fishing trade in protected areas in Mexico's Gulf of California. Half the population has disappeared in the last three years, with one in five drowned as bycatch. They're one of the most critically threatened species.
9. Sumatran Elephant. There are only 2,400-2,800 Sumatran elephants left on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with half their population gone in one generation due to habitat loss through deforestation by the paper, pulp and palm oil industries. In addition, they're often killed in "human-elephant conflict" when they trample homes and crops—another result of destroying their natural feeding grounds.
10. Mountain Gorilla. This gorilla, which lives in the mountainous forests of central Africa, is jeopardized by human encroachment forcing them into more dangerous territory, as well as by poaching and civil conflicts. They number less than 1,000 but the good news is that, thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers are growing. So they could dodge the extinction bullet.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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