Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Indonesia is home to three of the world's most endangered species

It's easy to become immune to the endless stream of reports about the plight of some of the planet's most endangered species. But I make no apology for again highlighting how crucial it is for Indonesia to protect its wildlife.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature's (WWF) so-called 9 to Watch in 2009 includes three species that are indigenous to this country. According to the international environmental group, the Javan rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger and the Borneo pygmy elephant are among the animals closest to extinction.

WWF scientists say these, and many other species, are at greater risk than ever before because of poaching, habitat loss and climate change-related threats.

At the top of the list is the Javan rhinoceros, of which there are apparently less than 60 still surviving in the wild. This is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world and is critically endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose the greatest risk to the two protected areas where they live.

The world's smallest and most endangered cetacean, the vaquita, is the second most threatened species. Found in Mexico, this tiny porpoise is often killed in gillnets and could soon be extinct.

It is in Nigeria and Cameroon where the world's third most threatened animal, the Cross River gorilla, is hanging onto life by a thread. Sadly there are less than 300 of these animals left in the few remaining forest patches that are their home.

But we return to Indonesia to find the creature that's fourth most likely to disappear forever: The much-reported Sumatran tiger, of which it is estimated that less than 500 are in existence today.

Few species have edged so close to extinction as the black-footed ferret and recovered, but through captive breeding and reintroduction, there are signs the species is slowly recovering. Borneo's pygmy elephant is the seventh most likely to die out with less than 1,000 left.

These smallest of all elephants must compete with logging and agriculture for space in the lowland forests of Borneo. Projects are underway to try to ensure their protection, which includes tracking the elephants through the use of satellite collars to learn more about these little-understood creatures.

Full article by Jonathan Wootliff

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