Which species are next to become extinct?

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species categorises 5583 species as critically endangered and 69 as extinct in the wild.

Which are next in line to become extinct if we cannot save them is complicated: a species with very few individuals may be less endangered than one with higher numbers because it is limited to a small area, for example.

Sadly, many animals are teetering on the brink of extinction; some of these are relatively obscure (the ivory-billed woodpecker, Chinese giant salamander, and the saola for example) and receive less attention than the tigers and rhinos fighting for existence.

Here are just six species we could lose in our lifetimes.

1. Northern white rhino

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered

Population: 2

The last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died in March 2018 at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, leaving behind only two females and rendering the subspecies functionally extinct.

Now the subspecies’ only hope is IVF success; scientists still hoping to aid the rhinoceros’ survival have said Sudan’s death makes no difference to the probability of this working given technological advances. A small glimmer of hope in the sad story of this mighty animal’s demise.

2. Vaquita

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered

Population: 12-30

Vaquitas, the world’s most endangered cetacean, is likely to be extinct with a decade.

There are thought to be fewer than 30 of the small porpoises remaining, with some reports claiming the number to be as low as 12.

Vaquitas, sometimes known as “panda porpoises” because of the dark rings around their eyes, were not discovered until 1958. Now just 60 years later they could be next to disappear.

Their main threat is being caught and drowned in gillnets used by illegals fishers around in the northern Gulf of California off Mexico, the only area in which they are found. Eforts to stop the practice by Mexican authorities have, unfortunately, had limited success.

3 and 4. Javan and Sumatran rhinos

Copyright: 26Isabella

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered

Population: 40-60 (Javan), 220-275 (Sumatran)

Both Critically Endangered, it is feared these rhinos will go the same way as their northern white relatives.

Conservation efforts to expand Javan rhinoceros’ habitat are hoped to help the remaining population on the Indonesian island of Java to diversify and increase in number. And an intensive breeding programme in Sumatra has seen two new Sumatran rhinos born since 2012.

5. South China tiger

Copyright: Taragui

IUCN Red List status: Criticially Endangered (possibly extinct in the wild)

Population: 72

This beautiful big cat has not been seen in the wild for more than 25 years. In 2005 the captive population was estimated at 72 but the animals reportedly show some signs of inbreeding which can result in low reproductive success.

In the 1990s, following decades of South China tigers being persecuted as a pest, the wild population was estimated to be 30-80 tigers. Today no protected area in China is likely to be large enough to sustain a population of the cats.

6. Cross river gorilla

Copyright: Julielangford

IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered

Population: 100-250

Found in the Congo Basin, the cross river gorilla subspecies is similar to its more populous cousin the western lowland gorilla. But they are at greater threat from deforestation and hunting by people.

Conservation efforts in Cameroon and Nigeria to save the great ape have included attempts to improve timber industry practices and building a protected area spanning the two nations.