Why Are 2 Million Animal Species At Risk Of Extinction

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: November 12, 2023
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Two baby gorillas

Gorillas live in extended family groups

©Eric Gevaert/Shutterstock.com

The Guardian reported that the number of species at risk of extinction increased to 2 million. How come? We know that some species are at risk of extinction such as pandas and gorillas, but what are some other animal species at risk of extinction? The United Nations reported that the number of animal species at risk of extinction doubled from 1 million when they reported it to National Geographic in 2019 to 2 million animals. So what new species are at risk of extinction?

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The report was published on Plos One on November 8, 2023. The United Nations expressed their concerns about the ecosystem with the opening lines: “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

One of the main responsibilities of the IPBES is to provide biodiversity knowledge to policymakers so they can implement changes for better ecosystem services. The report is compiled by 145 expert scientists in 50 different countries with input from 310 other contributing authors.

Their paper stated that “maintaining and restoring sustainable land and water use practices is crucial to minimize future biodiversity declines.” It seems like the increased need for urbanization is reducing the natural environment for animals. So what are some of the newer animal species that are facing extinction?

The New Animal Species At Risk Of Extinction

The newest animal species at risk of extinction are insects. And a lot of them. Axel Hochkirch, the lead researcher from the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle in Luxembourg told The Guardian: “What our study does is really highlight that insects are as threatened as other taxa. And because they are the most species-rich group of animals on our planet, this is something that should be really addressed.”

macro closeup on Hyllus semicupreus Jumping Spider. This spider is known to eat small insects like grasshoppers, flies, bees as well as other small spiders.

Did you know that spiders taste food with their feet, hear with their hair, and feel with their limbs?

©common human/Shutterstock.com

There’s a lack of data, but it was reported that 97% of all animals are invertebrates. In the group of invertebrates, 90% of them are insects. Although they’re tiny animals, they play a massive role in many different ecosystems. Insects naturally decompose organic matter and help with plant pollination for fruits, vegetables, and seeds. But, without insects being present, our Earth will not survive. All the insects also help with non-pollination as they can moderate biological control of pests and help with healthy streams and soils.

As much as they are helpful to the environment, they can be pests. Several insect species can destroy crops and spread diseases that endanger animal and human health.

Huck Institute had a previous report on the decline of insect species in 2017. A long-term study in Germany showed that it found declines of 75% of insect species in the country.

What’s Causing The Decline In Insect Populations?

Although there can be more insects in total than what people can count, there are several factors as to why their populations are declining. The increased climate change can impact not just the insects but also their homes such as plants and soils. Some other causes include light pollution, microplastics, and pollutants.

One of the more apparent reasons for the decline of insect species is because of human activity. Some examples of human activity include modern urbanization such as residential and urban development, overexploitation of natural resources such as wood, and increased pollution. The paper from the IPBES said that “agricultural land-use change as a major threat to biodiversity has often been reported. However, our analysis is the most comprehensive and unequivocal to date reaffirming the magnitude of the impact of this threat at a continental scale.”

The IPBES also analyzed the success of conservation programs for larger predators like white-tailed eagles, bears, lynxes, and wolves and said that similar conservation methods can help preserve insect wildlife.

What Are Some Other Animal Species At Risk Of Extinction?

a group of white rhinos in the wild

A group of white rhinos in the wild.

©Jurgens Potgieter/Shutterstock.com

Some non-insect species at risk of extinction are rhinos, amur leopards, orangutans, saolas, vaquitas, pangolins, and hammerhead sharks.

Rhinos

Some, but not all rhino species are critically endangered. Rhinos like black rhinos, northern white rhinos, and Javan rhinos. There are only 3,000 black rhinos left. Also, there are only 18 Javan rhinos left and two northern white rhinos left in the world. Some of the causes of their population decline are poaching, habitat loss, illegal selling of their horns (specifically the Javan rhinos), and human conflict in their habitats.

Amur Leopards

Amur leopards are known to be the “rarest big cat on Earth”. The name is becoming more true as the years go by. Currently, there are 100 amur leopards on the planet and they’re living in the Russian Land of the Leopard protected area. What causes their population decline is inbreeding and habitat loss. The Amur leopards are usually in areas such as Eastern Russia and Northern China.

Saolas

Saolas are bovines that live in the forests of Vietnam and Laos. They were recently discovered and now they’re seen as one of the rarest species. They were discovered in 1992. Some of the causes of their population decline include habitat destruction for commercial and residential urbanization and mining. Now it’s at a point where the population of 1,000 Saolas possibly can’t meet up to breed, which reduces their chances of increasing their population.

Vaquitas

Vaquitas is a specific porpoise species that lives in a range in the Gulf of California. Compared to the other cetacean species such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises, the vaquitas are the smallest-sized species alive. Some of their threats are fishing, habitat degradation, and persistent climate change. If these threats stay present, there may be no more vaquitas on Earth.

Two pangolin species are at risk of extinction: the Sunda pangolin and the Philippine pangolin. They’re small animals that live in Africa and Asia.

Hammerhead Shark

Hammerhead Sharks are one of the top predators in the world but they are also one of the largest endangered species in the oceans today. Five out of the nine hammerhead shark species are at risk of extinction today. Most of the hammerhead sharks can be seen all over the world. Some species live in the Central American waters and different parts of the Pacific Ocean.

They face human threats and underwater predators such as the Great White Shark and Killer Whales.

Summary

There are now 2 million animal species at the risk of extinction. In 2019, there were only 1 million animal species at risk of extinction. How did the number double in almost four years?

The mass urbanization of natural habitats that led to commercialization and the damage done to plants and soils have affected several species, especially the insect species. Most of the species that face extinction are insect-related but they play a massive role in biodiversity and plant regulation. Without them, many ecosystems will be affected. There wouldn’t be insects to help with waste removal and no insects to help with plant, fruit, and seed pollination. Also, there wouldn’t be insects to help regulate other insect populations that cause diseases.

Some non-insect species at risk of extinction are rhinos, amur leopards, orangutans, saolas, vaquitas, pangolins, and hammerhead sharks. They face similar causes of extinction like insects such as the destruction of their natural habitats and climate change, but they also face different challenges. Some of the common challenges they face are poaching, illegal selling of animal parts, larger predators consuming those species, and an inability to breed due to how far the animals are from one another.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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