21 endangered animals you can help protect

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At the end of 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added 31 species to its list of extinct plants and animals. The most recent update brings the total number of species threatened with extinction to 35,700 — more than a quarter of all species evaluated by the organization.

These species include all of the world’s fresh water dolphins, a third of the world’s oak trees and 40% of the world’s amphibians.

European bison
olgaIT / iStock

Some species are bouncing back

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Many species are bouncing back thanks to focused and dedicated conservation efforts. The European bison, for example, moved from “vulnerable” classification to “near threatened.”

“The European bison and twenty-five other species recoveries documented in [the] IUCN Red List update demonstrate the power of conservation,” said Dr. Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General. “Yet the growing list of Extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand. To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture, and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.”

African wild dog
Tomasz Dutkiewicz / iStock

You can help protect endangered animals

Here, we’ve compiled photos of some of the most endangered animals in the world, based on a list of adoptable species from the World Wildlife Foundation,. WWF allows individuals to make symbolic adoptions of these animals, with 81% of spending from these adoptions going directly to worldwide conservation activities.

If you’d like to learn more about endangered and extinct species around the world, check out IUCN’s Red List.

Amur leopard
Kevin Richards / iStock

1. Amur leopard

Also known as the Far East leopard, the Manchurian leopard or the Korean leopard, this critically endangered cat is found in the Russian Far East.

Adopt an Amur leopard

Black rhino
Steve and Bryce Kroencke / iStock

2. Black rhino

The black rhino is still considered critically endangered despite their numbers more than doubling thanks to persistent conservation efforts across Africa.

Adopt a rhino

Bornean orangutan
USO / iStock

3. Bornean orangutan

Only an estimated 104,700 Bornean orangutans remain in the wild, less than half their numbers 60 years ago.

Adopt an orangutan

Cross river gorilla
WWF.org

4. Cross river gorilla

Only an estimated 200 to 300 of these gorillas living at the border of Cameroon and Nigeria are believed to still exist. 

Adopt a gorilla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
slowmotiongli / iStock

5. Eastern lowland gorilla

Also known as Grauer’s gorilla, the Eastern lowland gorilla is the largest of the four gorilla subspecies. It is estimated it may now inhabit just 13% of its original historic range in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Adopt a gorilla

Hawksbill turtle
richcarey / iStock

6. Hawksbill turtle

Named for their narrow, pointed beak, Hawksbill turtles are found predominantly around coral reefs in tropical oceans. These critically endangered turtles can weigh up to 150 pounds.

Adopt a turtle

Saola
WWF.org

7. Saola

The critically endangered Saola lives in the mountains of Laos and Vietnam and was only discovered in 1992. None exist in captivity. Because the saola (pronounced SOW-la) is rarely seen, it is sometimes referred to as the Asian Unicorn.

Sumatran elephant
Eduardo Teixeira de Sousa / iStock

8. Sumatran elephant

Sumatran elephants live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. There are only an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 of them left in existence, according to data from the World Wildlife Foundation.

Sunda tiger
Kevin Wells / iStock

9. Sunda tiger

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, there are fewer than 400 of this subspecies of tiger remaining in the world today. Once found across many islands in Indonesia, today, Sunda tigers are found only on Sumatra.

Adopt a tiger

Vaquita porpoise
David Schneider / iStock

10. Vaquita

The Vaquita is a small harbor porpoise and the world’s rarest marine mammal. Only about 10 still exist according to estimates from the World Wildlife Foundation. Living in the gulf waters off the Baja Peninsula, the Vaquita was not discovered until 1958.

Adopt a dolphin

Western lowland gorilla
April Stevenson / iStock

11. Western lowland gorilla

The western lowland gorilla is the most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies. Populations can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea as well as in large areas in Gabon and the Republic of Congo. The exact number of western lowland gorillas is not known because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa.

Adopt a gorilla

African wild dog
Tomasz Dutkiewicz / iStock

12. African wild dogs

The wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. The largest populations remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa (especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique).

Adopt an African wild dog

Asian elephant family
hasachai / iStock

13. Asian elephant

Despite humans having had close associations with elephants over many centuries in Asia, and elephants becoming important cultural icons, Asia’s largest mammal is still endangered.

Asian elephants inhabit dry to wet forest and grassland habitats in 13 range countries spanning South and Southeast Asia. While they have preferred forage plants, Asian elephants have adapted to surviving on resources that vary based on the area.

Adopt an elephant

Black-footed ferret
kahj19 / iStock

14. Black-footed ferret

Once thought to be globally extinct, black-footed ferrets are making a comeback. For the last thirty years, concerted efforts from many state and federal agencies, zoos, Native American tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners have given black-footed ferrets a second chance for survival. Today, recovery efforts have helped restore the black-footed ferret population to nearly 300 animals across North America. Although great strides have been made to recover the black-footed ferret, habitat loss and disease remain key threats to this highly endangered species.

Adopt a black-footed ferret

Blue whale
EarthViews Productions / iStock

15. Blue whale

The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet, weighing as much as 200 tons (approximately 33 elephants). The blue whale has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Its stomach can hold one ton of krill and it needs to eat about four tons of krill each day. They are the loudest animals on Earth and are even louder than a jet engine. Their calls reach 188 decibels, while a jet reaches 140 decibels. Their low frequency whistle can be heard for hundreds of miles and is probably used to attract other blue whales.

Adopt a blue whale

Baby bonobo
Jeff McCurry / iStock

16. Bonobos

Bonobos and chimpanzees look very similar and both share 98.7% of their DNA with humans—making the two species our closest living relatives. Bonobos are usually a bit smaller, leaner and darker than chimpanzees. Their society is also different—bonobo groups tend to be more peaceful and are led by females. They also maintain relationships and settle conflicts through sex. However, bonobo life isn’t entirely violence free; if two groups of bonobos come together, they may engage in serious fighting.

Adopt a bonobo

Bornean elephant
feathercollector / iStock

17. Bornean elephant

The smallest Asian elephant subspecies, Bornean elephants are distinctly smaller than their mainland cousins. They have long tails that sometimes touch the ground, relatively large ears, and straighter tusks. While they are also known as Borneo pygmy elephants due to their smaller size, at 8.2-9.8 feet tall, the Bornean elephant is the largest mammal on the island.

Adopt a Bornean elephant

Chimpanzee
USO / iStock

18. Chimpanzees

Like us, chimps are highly social animals, care for their offspring for years and can live to be over 50. In fact, chimpanzees are our closest cousins; we share about 98% of our genes.


In their habitat in the forests of Central Africa, chimpanzees spend most of their days in the treetops. When they do come down to earth, chimps usually travel on all fours, though they can walk on their legs like humans for as far as a mile. They use sticks to fish termites out of mounds and bunches of leaves to sop up drinking water.

Adopt a chimpanzee

Green sea turtle
ShaneMyersPhoto / iStock

19. Green turtle

The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green turtles are in fact named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by over-harvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.

Adopt a sea turtle

Red panda
abzerit / iStock

20. Red panda

The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black, and there are white markings on the side of the head and above its small eyes. Red pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that predominantly stay in trees. Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. They use their long, bushy tails for balance and to cover themselves in winter, presumably for warmth. Primarily an herbivore, the name panda is said to come from the Nepali word ‘ponya,’ which means bamboo or plant eating animal.

Adopt a red panda

Tiger
DepositPhotos.com

21. Tiger

After a century of decline, overall wild tiger numbers are starting to tick upward. Based on the best available information, tiger populations are stable or increasing in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia and China. An estimated 3,900 tigers remain in the wild, but much more work is needed to protect this species if we are to secure its future in the wild. In some areas, including much of Southeast Asia, tigers are still in crisis and declining in number.

Adopt a tiger

This article is based on information from the World Wildlife Foundation and was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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21 endangered animals you can help protect

Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.

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