Human-beings and their impact on the environment are the number one cause behind the growing number of endangered species, and ultimately, the extinction of plants, mammals, birds, and other animals here on Earth. In the past 500 years at least 80 species of mammals have gone extinct. Another 30 are possibly extinct as well as counting on the fact that no one has seen hide nor hair of them in decades.
Among the most noticeable mammals to have gone extinct in the past few centuries are flying foxes, Falkland Island wolves, Tasmanian wolves, large sloths, Japanese sea lions, several types of deer and gazelle, the forest ox, and dozens of rodents, bats, bandicoots, and hutias as well. Today, over 25,000 species are at risk of going extinct, many of them due to climate change.
Even more, several species of mammals, such as the Scimitar Oryx and the Pere David’s Deer, would already be extinct if it weren’t for the fact that they’re being kept and cared for in captivity. That said, let’s have a closer look at some of the reasons why there are more endangered species facing extinction now than ever before in history.
How Climate Change is Impacting Life on Earth
Due to the industrial advancement of humans, and an increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases, planet Earth is warming much more rapidly than nature ever intended. As far as we know, the planet has never warmed up so quickly in history. This phenomenon is known as global warming, and it is entirely human-made.
As a result, climate change is occurring at alarming rates and the Earth's natural habitats are being adversely affected. Species around the world are struggling to adapt to the new climate. Rainfall is more sporadic, winters are less predictable, and summers are also hotter now.
Scientific studies suggest that these changes in the environment may push thousands of species to the brink of extinction. Animals don't have the same ability as humans to relocate themselves to more favorable locations. Even more, there is no doubt that hundreds of species are already well on their way to permanent extinction due to climate change.
11 Endangered Species Facing Extinction Due to Changes in Their Environment
Today, only around five percent of all life left on Earth is animals. With these sort of numbers as a reality, it’s high time to make a change. That said, here are 13 endangered species facing extinction due to changes in their environment:
1. The Adélie Penguin
Since the late 20th century the population of Adélie penguins has dropped by an astounding 80 percent. One of two penguin species originating from Antartica, the Adélie penguins have called the West Antarctic Peninsula home for an estimated 45,000 years. Now, thanks to radical changes in the temperature of the planet's seas, there is a decline in the natural food sources these birds have always relied on.
The biggest threat to these penguins, due to climate change, is the melting of sea ice. Without the proper amount of ice, the bird’s ability to nest and reproduce properly is impossible. According to scientists well over half of the Adélie’s current Antarctic habitat will be unsuitable for the birds within the current century.
2. Sea Turtles
Other particular species that rely on the world's seas and beaches for their very existence are sea turtles. That said, global warming is causing both waters and beaches to become hotter which is significantly affecting these turtles. Scientists have recently discovered that these new temperatures cause a majority of turtle eggs to hatch as females.
It is suspected that so many female turtles will be born that within the next century and a half the species will disappear from the face of the earth forever. Even if hotter sands didn’t affect the male to female birth ratio, the rising ocean temperatures are also disrupting the food source of this endangered species.
3. Polar Bear
Perhaps the most well known endangered species on the list is the beloved polar bear. Due to retreating sea ice, this artic predator’s natural food source becomes more scarce each year. Currently, polar bears have been observed turning to alternative food sources such as goose eggs and other terrestrial foods.
4. Red Panda
Less famous than the giant panda, which was removed from the endangered species last fall, is the red panda. The red panda is suffering due to not only climate change and habitat loss but by illegal poaching and inbreeding as well. With less than an estimated 10,000 adults existing in the wild, these last descendants of the genus Ailurus now rightly appear on the IUCN Red List.
5. Asian Elephant
The Asian elephant is the last known living genus Elephas species. They have seen a 50 percent decrease in population over the past half-century and have been on the endangered species list since the middle of the 1980s. Now, due to global warming and the degradation of their habitat, this species is even more at risk than ever before.
6. Wild Water Buffalo
Yet another species which has seen a massive decrease in its population is the wild water buffalo. In the past 25 to 30 years the wild water buffalo population has dropped to a number less than 3,500 in total. As with so many other species around the world, changes in their environment is the main culprit.
7. Black Howler
The black howler is a species of monkey only found in the lowland rainforests of Central America. Aside from hunters, the loss of, and changes to, their environment is the main reason it now on the endangered species list. Scientists predict that well over half of the remaining black howlers will become extinct by 2050.
8. Bramble Cay Melomys
First discovered on the island of Bramble Cay in 1845, the bramble cay melomys is a small and unobtrusive rat. Until the late 1970s hundreds of the species inhabited said island, however, it was last seen in 2009. Due to the steady rise of global sea levels, these rats have lost 97 percent of their natural habitat and is now an official member of the officially endangered species club.
9. White Lemuroid Ringtail Possum
Scientists have recently declared the white lemuroid ringtail possum as ecologically extinct. The population of these possums is rapidly dropping because of the Earth's increasing temperature. The last sighting of white lemuroid ringtail possums was back in the summer of 2014 when only four or five adults were spotted by a scientific observation team that conducted ten surveys at Mount Lewis in the Daintree rainforest of Queensland, Australia.
10. Common Chimpanzee
The common chimpanzee, one of the great ape species, is a close relation to modern humans. They even create and use tools, such as spears, for modifying their surroundings and collecting food. However, sadly, they are far from possessing the same level of adaptability as humans. That said, climate change and loss of habitat, as well as poaching, has driven the common chimp to the brink of extinction.
11. Ringed Seal
Aside from polar bears and penguins, ringed seals are another arctic species which is struggling to adapt to the disappearing sea ice. The smallest of all artic seal types, the species isn’t quite capable of adapting to warmer climates and drier lands. The ice places many roles in the existence of these seals: they conceive their children under it, raise their children on it, and rely on it to support their food supply.
Furthermore, the ringed seal is the main food source of another endangered arctic species: the polar bear. Once the ringed seal is extinct, the polar bear population will decline at an even faster rate than it already is. And such is the case with many other endangered species as well.
A Final Word About Mankind’s Impact on Wildlife
By now, it should be pretty clear just how much of a negative impact human-beings are having on the Earth and all of its biodiversity. However, here a few thoughts for you to consider just in case the picture isn’t completely crystal yet.
In a recent study by, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, several interesting numbers were revealed in regards to the impact humanity has had, and continues to have, on the Earth’s wildlife. According to the study over 50 percent of all the world’s animals have become extinct due to industrialization in just the last half-century.
If that doesn’t shock you, perhaps the rest of the numbers will.
Excluding humans, 92 percent of all mammals currently on Earth are livestock of one form or another. Mainly pigs and cattle. That means only 8 percent of all living and breathing mammals are actually “wild” animals living in nature.
Additionally, less than one-third of all birds on the planet is wild, and over 70 percent of birds are raised as poultry on farms. The whaling industry alone has claimed 80 percent of the ocean's wildlife. Furthermore, humans have driven over 80 percent of all wild animals extinct, as well as over half of the plants that we know about.