Endangered Animals: From Elephants to Crocodiles

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In 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, designed to protect animals with declining numbers. Congress designated different areas of protection under the act. Endangered species are animals that will likely become extinct throughout a portion or all of their natural range. Threatened species are animals that will likely become endangered in the future. Critical habitats are the natural environments needed by threatened and endangered animals. When exploring the realm of endangered and threatened animals, prepare to learn about a variety of species, from the snake to the stingray. Animals such as the crocodile have species that have reached endangered status. The ostrich has reached threatened status in some regions of the world. Conserving and preserving these species often involves fundraising to raise money for their protection.


Elephants have the title of the largest land-dwelling mammals on earth. The African elephant is larger than the Asian elephant, tipping the scale at up to 8 tons. When examining the two different elephant species, you will notice a distinct difference in ear shapes, which sets them apart. Both elephant species require extensive land space to survive. They move freely in herds, eating large amounts of plants every day. Humans have encroached onto the natural ranges of elephants, forcing them to compete for the resources they need. Elephant numbers have also declined due to the popular ivory trade during the 20th century.


The ostrich is native to more than 25 different African countries. Ostriches live in both woodlands and in plains. Ostriches have a number of natural predators, including lions, hyenas, and leopards. Humans are another predator of the ostrich. The popularity of ostrich feathers in fashion posed a threat to the ostrich during the 18th century. Ostrich farming was a significant boost for this animal’s numbers, helping it to avoid probable extinction. In some areas of the world, humans still hunt ostrich for its feathers, eggs, and fat.


Crocodiles and alligators are both members of the crocodilian group of reptiles. The American alligator is more prevalent in Florida than the crocodile. The American crocodile lives in coastal areas of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. Humans have engaged in crocodile-hunting, seeking both meat and hides from the creatures. Hunters seek crocodile hides for making items such as handbags, alligator skin wallets, and shoes. Urbanization of the crocodile’s natural habitats has also threatened this animal.


Western gorillas live in the forests of Africa. These large primates live in groups with one dominant male taking the role of leader. Western gorillas living in the wild are critically endangered. Laws are in place to protect gorillas from hunting and capture. However, enforcement of these laws is cursory. Natural habitats of the gorilla are slowly disappearing with urbanization and the prevalence of cattle ranches in some countries.


Leopards are an adaptable and prevalent type of cat species living in a variety of different habitats. While leopards share some physical characteristics with jaguars, these cats have a longer tail and they are smaller. Leopards are native to sub-Saharan Africa. Leopards also live in the Middle East, Russia, China, and India. The leopard’s adaptability has helped this animal maintain its numbers. Environmental issues, including the loss of natural habitats and a decline in prey, have posed risks for the leopard. Leopard-hunting is another significant risk in some countries.


A number of rhinoceros species exist. Two subspecies make up the species of white rhinocerous: the northern white rhino and the southern white rhino. This rhino species lives in several African countries. Once almost completely extinct, the white rhino has recovered in numbers. The black rhino is currently critically endangered. Hunting and poaching have resulted in an extreme decline in black rhino numbers in natural habitats. Current conservation efforts are helping, and the black rhino is beginning to recover its population.


Tigers live in tropical rainforests, temperate forests, grasslands, and savannas. These solitary cats cover large territories, stalking and hunting their prey. Hunting and poaching have resulted in a significant decline in tiger populations, causing this animal to enter endangered status. Habitat loss also plays a role in the population decline of tigers.