7 Iconic Animals Humans Are Driving to Extinction
By Douglas Main
It’s hard to imagine a world in which elephants, orangutans, lions and other iconic wildlife only exist in stories, photos and zoos. But that may be where the future is heading for some of these animals. Several creatures around the world are being pushed toward extinction by humans, through hunting and habitat loss, researchers say.
Growing populations of humans, and rising demand for agricultural products and the animals themselves via poaching, are elbowing these iconic animals to the brink. This stark reality has become even more palpable since the United Nations issued a report this summer estimating that the global population will reach 11 billion by 2100, faster than previously estimated. If these animals are to be saved, people will need to be educated about the creatures’ plight, poaching must be stopped, and the animals’ habitats will need to be protected, experts say.
Below, are seven animals that humans are threatening with extinction. These are just a few examples of how humans are contributing to the sixth-largest mass extinction in the history of the planet, according to most biologists.
There are only about 20,000 lions left in Africa, according to Dereck Joubert, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and filmmaker who lives among the iconic big cats in Botswana with his wife, Beverly. About 50 years ago, there were 450,000 lions – a decline of more than 95 percent, he said. About five wild lions are killed every day throughout Africa, Joubert added.
Trophy hunters, mostly Americans, kill about 600 lions per year, typically males with large manes. More than 90 percent of these trophies are taken back to the United States and the activity often takes place in “canned” hunts where lions are placed in small enclosures or even cages and then shot, Joubert added.
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