featured endangered species

Polar BearThe Polar Bear

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is native to the Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas. The world's largest predator found on land, an adult male weighs around 880–1,500 pounds while an adult female is about half that size.

The polar bear has adapted to cold temperatures, and moving across snow, ice, and open water to hunt the seals which make up most of their diet. As it can hunt consistently only from sea ice, the polar bear spends much of the year on the frozen sea, although most polar bears are born on land.

For years, unrestricted hunting raised international concern for the future of the species. The polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arctic indigenous peoples, and the hunting of polar bears remains important in their cultures.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists global warming as the most significant threat to the polar bear, primarily because the melting of its sea ice habitat reduces its ability to find sufficient food. If climatic trends continue polar bears may become extinct within 100 years. On May 14, 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Timber RattlesnakeTimber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
New York Status: Threatened
The Timber Rattlesnake is at least 3-4.5 feet in length and is the largest venomous snake in New York. Timber rattlers are very stocky, large snakes. Despite their size, their coloration allows them to hide easily. Two color patterns are commonly found: a yellow phase and a black phase.

The timber rattlesnake has a temperature- sensitive opening on either side of the face that is used to detect prey and potential predators. Another feature distinctive of rattlesnakes is the rattle itself. This structure is made of loosely attached horny segments. A new segment is added each time the snake sheds.

This rattler feeds primarily on small mammals, but occasionally takes small birds, amphibians and other snakes. The venom, which is used primarily to immobilize prey, can be fatal to humans if the bite is untreated. However, in New York there have been no records of human deaths attributable to rattlesnakes in the wild during the last several decades. Contrary to popular opinion, a rattlesnake will not pursue or attack a person unless threatened or provoked.

Although still fairly common in some local areas, the timber rattlesnake has been greatly reduced in numbers due to unregulated collection and indiscriminate killing. A contributing factor was the bounty system under which a reward was paid for each timber rattler killed. Bounties were outlawed in New York State in 1971. Even in areas without bounties, the snake was severely persecuted by local residents and collected for the pet and curio trade. Timber rattlesnakes reproduce at a low rate, making for slow population growth. Factors such as development, illegal collecting, and the continual disturbance of forests by recreational users will likely prevent or hinder population recovery for many areas.

Orangutan Orangutan

Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Pongo
Species: pygmaeus
Subspecies: pygmaeus (Borneo), abelii (Sumatran)

Orangutans originated 2 million to 100,000 years ago. They now face extinction. At the beginning of the last century around 315,000 orangutans existed in the wild. There are are now 92% less than century ago. They became extinct from many areas through hunting and deforestation.

Orangutans have a unique rusty-orange hair that covers their bodies and their arms. In general its coat will range anywhere from bright orange in youngsters to a chocolate mahogany in some adults. They have huge jaws and their big flat cheek teeth are specialized for tearing, grinding and opening shells.

Orangutans spend their lives in the tropical forest canopy 20 to 100 feet above ground. Considering the large size of the orangutan, they are graceful and agile, yet slow. An orangutan seldom covers more than mile in a day; however they cover a vast range in which they hunt for their food.

Orangutans build two nests a day; a sparse one for a short nap and a stronger sleeping nest every night which is made of branches with leaves on them.

Orangutans will spend most of their daylight hours eating and searching for food. They eat over 300 different kinds of fruit, as well as bark, young shoots, insects and an occasional bird egg or small vertebrate.

The lifespan of an orangutan in the wild is about 35 to 40 years. In captivity they can live to 50 years.

At the turn of the last century around 315,000 orangutans existed in the wild. In the 15 years since 1987, orangutan numbers have declined by more than half. It is estimated that 80% of all orangutan habitat has been destroyed through both legal and illegal logging. One of the most illegally logged trees in Indonesia continues to be Indonesian Ramin. As a result of this listing, the United States USDA now requires a special permit in order to import Ramin products; however this has not stopped its importation. Millions of dollars of wood products made from the Indonesian Ramin are illegally exported to the US by Malaysian companies each year.

Indonesia is a 1987 signatory to the IUCN CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) and has committed itself to an international campaign to stop the trade of endangered species. It has also passed laws making it a criminal offense to trade in and own protected animals. However, the capture of young orangutans for the pet trade continues. In order for a baby orangutan to be captured the mother must be killed first. Experts estimate that on average, 2 adults are killed in order to successfully secure 1 baby. Typically, up to 5 babies are shipped together in a single box, in hopes that one will survive the arduous journey. It is estimated that about 1,000 baby orangutans were smuggled to Taiwan from Kalimantan on Borneo between 1985 and 1990 and sold as exotic pets.

Manatee Manatee

The manatee is a large aquatic relative of the elephant, sometimes known as a "sea cow". They are grayish brown and have thick, wrinkled skin often with a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer and crawl through shallow water. They have strong flat tails that help propel them through the water. They have small eyes and no outer ears, but can see and hear quite well.

Manatees are about 10-12 feet long and weigh between 1,500-1,800 lbs. Baby Manatees are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measuring about 3-4 feet. They can live 50-60 years in the wild. They eat marine and freshwater plants. Most Manatees, approximately 3000 of them, live in Florida.

Manatees can be found in warm waters. They rarely swim in waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They normally rest and eat often. Manatees communicate by squealing under water to show fear, stress or excitement.

Manatees are endangered! The leading known cause of death is by boat strikes; propellers and hulls inflict serious or deadly wounds. Most manatees have scars on their backs or tails after surviving collisions with boats. Manatees are threatened in cold water. They have been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates and suffer harm from exposure to toxic red tide. In addition, a large number of manatees die from unknown causes each year. They are federally listed as Endangered and Florida state listed as Endangered. The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help protect both. In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren.

African Elephant African Elephant

African elephants are the species of elephants in the genus Loxodonta.

African elephants are bigger than Asian elephants. Males stand 12 ft tall at the shoulder and weigh 12,000 lbs, while females stand 10 ft and weigh 8,000 to 11,000 lbs. Males can get as big as 15,000 lbs.

Elephants have four molars; each one weighs about 11 lbs and is about 12 inches long. As the front pair wear down and fall out, the back pair shift forward and two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth. Elephants replace their teeth six times. At about 40 to 60 years of age the elephant no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death.

Their tusks, (the source of Ivory) are teeth; the second set of incisors become the tusks. They are used for digging for roots and stripping the bark off trees for food, for fighting each other during mating season, and for defending themselves against predators. The tusks weigh from 50-100 pounds and can be from 5 to 8 feet long. Both males and females have tusks.

Poaching significantly reduced the population of Elephants in certain regions during the 20th century. An example of this poaching pressure is in the eastern region of Chad—elephant herds with an estimated population of 400,000 in 1970 dwindled down to about 10,000 in 2006. Poaching is still a serious issue. In July, 2008 China was granted permission to import Ivory from Africa.

Rockhopper Penguin Rockhopper Penguin

There are two species of the Rockhopper penguin: the Northern Rockhopper Peguin (Eudyptes moseleyi) and the Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptera chrysocome).

The Rockhopper penguin is a small, aggressive, crested penguin. These penguins are called "rockhoppers" because they jump from rock to rock as they are flightless. They used to be hunted for their oil, but are now protected. They have a life span of over 10 years. Penguins have shiny, waterproof feathers that help keep their skin dry. Each year, penguins lose their old feathers and grow new ones. Rockhopper Penguins are about 22 inches tall and weigh about 6 pounds. They have feathery black and yellow body, a bright orange-red bill, and bright red eyes. They have a big head,a short tail and tiny, flipper-like wings. Their webbed feet are used for swimming. Penguins have a lighter color on the belly and a darker color on their back. This helps camouflage them when they are in the water, hiding them from predators.

All Southern Rockhopper penguins live on sub-Antarctic islands . They are meat-eaters that catch their prey in the ocean. Their diet consists mostly of crustaceans and small fish. Rockhoppers are eaten by blue sharks, leopard seals and fur seals. Eggs and chicks are eaten by many birds, including skuas, petrels, and Dominican gulls. They breed from October to April.Both parents care for the chick.

The Northern Rockhopper can be found on the Kerguelen Islands. A study in 2009 showed that the world population of the Northern Rockhopper has declined by an estimated 90% since the 1950's possibly due to climate changes in the marine ecosystems and overfishing of squid and octopus by humans which are essential parts of the Penguin's diet.Other possible factors to it's decline include disturbance and pollution from ecotourism, fishing, egg-harvesting, and predation from House Mice and Subantartice Fur Seals. It is now classified as an endangered species.

Sumatran Tiger The Sumatran Tiger

The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.Currently, there are only 100-400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. They are classified as Critically Endangered, and are currently the world's most endangered Tiger species.

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all tiger subspecies. Male tigers average 6 feet, 8 inches from head to tail and weigh about 136 kg. Females average 6 feet, 6 inches and weigh about 91 kg. Its stripes are narrower than other subspecies of tigers' stripes, and it has a more bearded and maned appearance. Its small size makes it easier to move through dense rain forests. It has webbing between its toes that, when spread, makes Sumatran tigers very fast swimmers.

Sumatran tigers commonly prey on wild boar, tapir and deer, and sometimes also smaller animals, like fowl, and fish. Orangutans could be prey, but since they spend a minimal amount of time on the ground, tigers rarely catch one if they do it is a good meal to them.

About 450 tigers are responsible for nearly 40 human deaths in 2000-2004. On the other hand, an estimated 52 tigers were killed per year in 1999-2002. It is clear that something must be done or the critically endangered tiger will follow the fate of its relatives into extinction.

The deforestation of Sumatra is occurring at an extremely fast rate, with almost 30 million acres cleared in the last 22 years. Forests are cleared for both palm oil and timber. It is no surprise that tiger attacks are on the rise as they are forced to live near human populations. The last three attacks, have all been on lumberjacks working at illegal logging camps in the protected forests. The ‘Harapan Rainforest‘ was established in Sumatra as a safe-haven for the tigers in 2007.

It is clear that the boundaries of the protected forests must be better patrolled in order to prevent illegal logging. This may prove difficult on the large island that is already struggling with poverty.

White Rhino The White Rhinoceros

The White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), once existed in parts of north-western Uganda, southern Chad, south-western Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, and north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The only confirmed population today is in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since mid 2003, poaching has intensified and reduced the wild population to only 5 to 10 animals, but according to the WWF, there are now only four Northern White Rhinos left in the wild.

In August 2005, ground and aerial surveys conducted under the direction of African Parks Foundation and the African Rhino Specialist Group only found four animals. A solitary adult male and a group of one adult male and two adult females. Efforts to locate further animals continue. In June 2008 it was reported that the species may have gone extinct since none of these four known remaining individuals has been seen since 2006.

The captive northern white rhino population consists of only 8 animals and is maintained in two zoological institutions in the U.S.A. and the Czech Republic. However only three are capable of breeding. The zoo population is declining and is not viable. Northern whites have rarely reproduced in captivity.

Hirola Antelope The Hirola

The Hirola (Beatragus hunter) is an antelope species found in grassy plains on the border between Kenya and Somalia. It's the only member of the genus Beatragus.

Hirola are known as the "four-eyed antelope," due to their large preorbital glands. Their coat is a sandy brown color, with a lighter underbelly and a small white strip over the bridge of the nose. The horns are lyre shaped and very obviously ringed.

They spend the mornings and evenings grazing. Herds contain from two to forty females led by one territorial male but bachelor herds of five or so males are common.

Hirola are critically endangered. There are between 500 and 1200 animals in the wild and none currently in captivity. Counts in the 1970s found around 14,000 animals and another count in the 1980s found 7000 animals. The Hirola's decline is believed to have been brought on by competition with cattle as well as the drought which has plagued the region.

In late 2005, four local communities have developed and put forward a proposal to formally establish the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy for the protection of the Hirola.

The Hirola was placed on the top-10 list of "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered EDGE identifies species that are evolutionarily distinct and need better protection to prevent extinction.


The Arakan Forest Turtle The Arakan Forest Turtle

The Arakan Forest Turtle is an extremely rare turtle which lives only in the Arakan hills of western Burma. The Arakan Forest Turtle was believed extinct, but in 1994 it was rediscovered when a few specimens turned up in Asian food markets. Like most Asian turtles, it is collected yearly as a food source or for "medical cures." Only a handful of these turtles are in captivity and their status in the wild is critical.




The Blue Whale The Blue Whale

The Blue Whale is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is believed to be the largest animal ever to have existed. The Blue Whale's body can be various shades of bluish-gray on its back and somewhat lighter underneath.

Blue Whales were abundant in nearly all oceans until the beginning of the twentieth century. For over 40 years they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until protected by the international community in 1966. As of 2002. there were approximately 5,000 to 12,000 Blue Whales worldwide. Before whaling the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 to 311,000.

Snow Leopard The Snow Leopard

The snow leopard, also known as the ounce, is a large cat from the mountains of Central Asia, ranging from Russia and Mongolia to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Tibet. It cannot roar and it is not related to the leopard, despite its name. the snow leopard has beautiful fur, a whitish-tan coat with brown and black spots. Its tail and paws are covered with thick fur for protection against cold and snow.

Because it is difficult to reach much of the snow leopards habitat the exact number of them left in the wild is unknown. It is estimated that there are only 4,500 to 5000. The decline in population is mainly due to hunters and trappers killing them for their beautiful fur.




January, Polar Bear

February, Timber Rattlesnake

March, Orangutan

April, Manatee

May, African Elephant

June, Rockhopper Penguin

July, Sumatran Tiger

August, White Rhinoceros

September, Hirola

October, Arakan Forest Turtle

November, Blue Whale

December, Snow Leopard

Greenwood Lake, NY 10925 | 845.667.6852 | planetsixtysix@yahoo.com