Many overlooked animals are languishing

The 30,000 species at risk of extinction aren't all cuddly or charismatic—but they're no less critical to Earth’s ecosystems.

Pandas and tigers may be the poster creatures for conservation, but thousands more threatened animals languish out of the spotlight. Most of them aren’t cuddly or charismatic, but they’re no less crucial to ecosystems. Of the 30,000 species documented as being at risk of extinction, 28 percent are reptiles—including six of the seven kinds of sea turtles. Birds are declining because of climate change, habitat loss, predation, and pesticides, with a whopping 2.9 billion fewer in North America than in 1970. Reversing the trend over the next half century requires focusing a lot more attention on these underappreciated rarities.

(endangered)
The population of this endangered African crane has dropped from more than 100,000 wild individuals to some 30,000 in the past 35 years. Reaching heights of around three feet, the elegant bird has suffered from poaching for its meat and eggs, as well as from the destruction of the wetland habitat where it breeds and hunts. The crane pictured here is a captive animal at France’s Parc des Oiseaux.

(vulnerable)
Widespread hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries took a toll on koala populations. Now the fuzzy marsupials, often mistakenly called koala bears, face new perils: climate change; highways that fragment habitats; and the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, which has ravaged some groups with a 100 percent infection rate. Wildfires have become a particular threat. Koalas rarely descend from the eucalyptus trees whose leaves make up the bulk of their diet, so many have been unable to escape the unprecedented fires in eastern Australia. These young koalas, or joeys, snuggle together at the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland.

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