We look at 10 of the World’s most endangered species and how your next holiday can help their survival.
Sadly the world is full of endangered species but, these days, people are willing to pay good money to see animals in their natural habitats and anyone who’s seen a breaching humpback whale or elephant on the savannah will understand why. Thankfully, governments and communities are waking up to the idea that living rainforests can generate more sustainable income than logged wood, and a breathing rhino can attract more money than a dead one.
The rise of eco-travel has brought new possibilities for conservation and new hope for many of the world’s most endangered species. Not only is this fledgling industry providing a more reliable revenue for locals, it’s also spreading awareness and creating more dialogue than ever before. Many reputable organisations are now offering trips that directly aid conservation projects and the discerning tourist can become a genuine force for change. Below are 10 of the most endangered species of animal that could benefit from your holiday.
1. The African forest elephant
Number one on our list of endangered species, these shy fellows live in the dense forests of the Congo Basin and could be extinct within 10 years. They live in small groups, are fiendishly clever and a joy to watch. A well-chosen safari holiday would contribute towards their conservation – some trips even offer the opportunity to camp alongside researchers.
2. Mountain gorilla
Two populations of mountain gorilla exist today. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa and the other is found in the Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable Park. Eco-tourism has provided funds for research and revenue for local communities who’d otherwise rely on logging – these animals are one of the best examples of the good the right kind of tourism can do.
3. Blue Whale
The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever existed – its tongue can weigh more than an elephant and its heart as much as a car. With a little planning, you can book a whale-watching trip with a research group to make sure your money helps in conservation efforts. The Alfaguara project in Chile combines conservation measures with whale-watching to fund its important work and bring economic benefit to local people.
4. Amazon river dolphin
Otherwise known as the pink river dolphin, these creatures are the largest species of dolphin on the planet and probably the strangest looking, too. Sadly, local fishermen see them as competition but keeping track of depleting numbers is proving difficult because killings often go unreported. Responsible trips to the area would help spread awareness and provide much-needed income for communities.
5. Giant Panda
These guys just might be the cuddliest-looking creatures that ever existed, but they’re high on the list of endangered species. Native to south central China, pandas are the biggest species of bear in the world and current estimates suggest there are only 1,500 left in the wild. If you want your holiday to go towards helping these loveable animals, why not consider a trip to the Jiuzhaigou National Park? Be prepared to get up early because the bears are elusive…
6. Sumatran orangutan
Considered one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates, the Sumatran orangutan has been hit hard by the rise of the palm oil industry – as natural forest is burnt away, large numbers are left orphaned or injured. Happily, many projects have sprung up to both rescue animals and conduct valuable research. A great way to support them is through holiday volunteer-schemes that allow you to work with these great apes.
7. The African Wild Dog
Sometimes known as the African painted dog, this beastie is instantly recognisable for its beautiful coat and endearing, oversized ears. You’ll find them on the savannah and in arid zones of small parts of Africa. Although hunting dogs can be quite hard to see, their personalities are worth going the extra mile for. You can help conservation efforts by choosing a trip that directly benefits these creatures.
There are eight species of scaly anteater (or pangolin) in the world, found in both Asia and Africa. They’re nocturnal, live in hollow trees and burrows and are the only known mammals to have large scales over their skin for protection. They’re also the most trafficked mammal in the world. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed all eight species on its Red List, and their Pangolin Specialist Group launched a global action plan to conserve pangolins in 2014.
9. Leatherback sea turtle
This noble creature is the largest of all living turtles and the fourth heaviest reptile in the world. A cosmopolitan creature, the leatherback range reaches as far north as Alaska and Norway and as far south as the southernmost tip of New Zealand. Sadly, latest estimates by the WWF suggest that only 2,300 adult-female pacific leatherbacks remain. On certain boat tours, you just might be lucky enough to see one, and your carefully spent money can help ongoing research.
10. Amur Leopard
The world’s rarest cat is a subspecies native to Primorye region of Russia and Jilin Province of China. These beautiful creatures are so rare that just 57 remain in Russia and only 12 in China. The main threat to the Amur leopard’s survival is from human-induced fires – rural farmers set fields ablaze to improve soil fertility – but poaching is also of grave concern. A large number of groups have joined the fight to save this beautiful animal, but they need support. Perhaps on your next holiday, you might go in search of the Amur leopard?