The Next Ten Years’: Africa’s Most Endangered Species

Many of Africa’s most famous species are now endangered. The reasons these animals are facing such a steep decline a numerous – everything from poaching to climate change can be blamed. And now we’re reaching a crisis point. If more and more people aren’t made aware of the issue and action isn’t taken, in the next ten years’, we might not see these animals out on the African plains.

To help give you an idea of the scale and breadth of the problem, Tusk Photo, have put together an infographic looking at Africa’s most endangered, how many are left, and the threats they’re facing.



1. Riverine Rabbit

· Status: Critically Endangered

· Population in the wild: Less than 250 adults

· Threats:

o Habitat loss due to farming

o Traditional hunting

o Accidental snaring

o Predation from dogs

The riverine rabbit is one of the world’s rarest animals. To have sighted one is said to be a miracle. This isn’t a surprise since they are confined to the central Karoo region of South Africa, which means that they reside within only 11-500 km2 of the planet.

Ø They live for up to 3-4 years and an average female produces one offspring per year, which is a major hindrance in the attempt to increase the population of the species.

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2. Ethiopian Wolf

· Status: Endangered

· Population in the wild: Approx. 450 adults and sub-adults

· Threats:

o Habitat loss due commercial development

o Contracting rabies from domestic dogs

o Road killing

o Genetic isolation

o Climate warming

Closely related to the Grey wolf, the Ethiopian wolf is one of the rarest canids and has its own distinct species.

Currently there are six known populations of this creature, all of them confined to different areas of Ethiopia, but loss of Afro-alpine habitat is gradually leading to a decrease in the count.

Ø The Ethiopian wolf is the only species of wolf found in Africa.

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3. Black Rhino

· Status: Critically endangered

· Population in the wild: Over 5,000

· Threats:

o Poaching

o Habitat loss

o Hunting

o Civil unrest

The black rhino can be distinguished from the white rhino by the prehensile upper lip, thus leading to its alternate name “hook-lip rhino”.

The major threat faced by this animal is poaching for illegal trade in its horn for medicinal purposes ranging from hangovers to fevers to cancer.

· 2016 alone saw 1,054 rhinos being killed in South Africa.

· This figure is close to the birth rate of 6% in the country, which implies that the population of rhinos is close to the tipping point.

Ø Recent surge in poaching is driven by demands from Vietnam where it is consumed as a mark of wealth.

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4. White Rhino

· Status: Near Threatened

· Population in the wild: Over 20,000

· Threats:

o Poaching

o Hunting

o Civil unrest

The white rhinos are the second largest mammals on land after elephants. They are characterised by their square lips, and hence often called “square-lipped rhino”. They are primarily divided into Northern white rhinos and Southern white rhinos, based on their habitat.

Believed to be extinct by the late 19th century, extreme protection and management has brought these animals from “Critically Endangered” to “Near Threatened” now.

However, it is important to note that:

· Northern black rhinos are extinct in the wild.

· Only 3 individuals exist on the planet, all of them in a conservancy in Kenya.

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5. African Elephant

· Status: Vulnerable

· Population in the wild: 415,000

· Threats:

o Poaching

o Habitat loss

o Human-wildlife conflict

The African elephants are the planet’s largest land mammals. They are classified into two subspecies:

· the larger savannah elephant, which resides in the grassy plains and woodlands

· the smaller forest elephant, which can be found in the equatorial forests of central and western Africa

While the early 20th century boasted of 3-5 million elephants, their numbers have now reduced to a few hundreds of forest elephants and around 300,000 of savannah elephants.

Although elephant habitats are now protected, less than 20% of these areas are under formal protection.

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6. Cheetah

· Status: Endangered

· Population in the wild: 7,050

· Threats:

o Illegal Poaching

o Habitat loss

o Human-wildlife conflict

o Prey

The fastest animal on Earth is losing its race for survival.

· Over the years, these big cats have been driven out of 91% of their land owing to human invasion for agricultural and commercial development.

· Although cheetahs hardly prey on domesticated animals, many of them are killed based on mere assumption of being a threat to livestock.

· Not only are these animals killed for their skin but their prey species are also hunted heavily, thus resulting in loss of food.

· Cheetah cubs are highly in demand as pets, especially in the Middle East, which results in illegal trafficking of the cubs from North Africa.

Ø The latest census reports that these big cats might face another 53% decline in number in the next 15 years.

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7. Mountain Gorilla

· Status: Critically endangered

· Population in the wild: Approx. 880 individuals

· Threats:

o Habitat loss

o Hunting

o Illegal pet trade

o Human-wildlife conflict

o Diseases spread by tourists

o Civil unrest

“Silverback” is the name attributed to the males because of the patch of silver hair that grows on their back and hips.

The population of these majestic creatures suffered a steep decline right after their discovery in 1902, and it was assumed that they would be extinct by the end of the century.

However, major conservation efforts have enabled them to return from the brink of extinction, although their existence still remains on the edge.

  • Between June and July 2007, 7 mountain gorillas had been shot dead.
  • Ape meat is in high demand in urban centers where it is considered as a prestigious food.
  • Between 2002 and 2003, 600 gorillas died with 95% of them being affected by Ebola.

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8. African Penguin

· Status: Endangered

· Population in the wild: Approx. 52,000 adult individuals

· Threats:

o Oil spill

o Illegal trading of eggs

o Shortage of food

o Human-wildlife conflict

African penguins or black-footed penguins are the only species of the bird found in Africa.

Till date the major threat faced by these birds was when the MV Treasure, laden with iron ore, sank six miles off the coast of South Africa on 23rd June 2000.

· The sinking of the ship caused approximately 1,300 tonnes of the bunker oil it was carrying to spill.

· This heavily affected the penguin population that was in the best breeding season on record.

· Over 19,000 adult penguins were oiled and approximately 2,000 of them died.

· The oiled penguins were brought to an abandoned train repair house in Cape Town for aid while an additional 19,500 un-oiled penguins were moved to safety.

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9. African Wild Dog

· Status: Endangered

· Population in the wild: 2,000 – 5,000

· Threats:

o Snaring

o Human-wildlife conflict

o Habitat loss

o Disease spread from domesticated animals

o Isolated population

African wild dogs, also known as “painted wolves” are different from wolves and other dogs in that they have 5 toes instead of 4.

This species of wild dogs is very interesting for more than one reason:

· In a pack, they co-operatively care for the pups, irrespective of who the mother is.

· They “talk” to each other during a hunt.

· During pursuit, they can reach a speed of more than 70 km/h, and can continue for an hour.

· They are one of the most social species, and the whole pack contributes equally to the caring and feeding of the young.

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10. African White-backed Vulture

· Status: Critically endangered

· Population in the wild: 270,000

· Threats:

o Poaching

o Habitat loss

o Shortage of food

o Human-wildlife conflict

Africa is the home to 11 species of vultures. However, West Africa has already lost 90% of its white-backed vulture population, and the current population is on a steady decline.

The biggest threat to these amazing birds is their own dietary habits. Vultures indicate the location of carcass, and hence of poachers. This has turned poachers to hunt these birds down.

· In July 2013 approximately 500 vultures were killed after feeding on the poisoned carcass of an elephant.

· In the same year, a total of 1,700 vultures were killed.