10 of Africa’s most endangered species

Africa, the second largest and most populous continent in the world, is marvelously rich in biodiversity. With its equally rich natural landscapes and biomes, ranging from arid deserts and savannahs to tropical rainforests and ice-capped mountains, Africa is home to around a quarter of the planet’s animal and plant species. But delayed industrialization and development, human activities such as deforestation – 4 million hectares of African forests are felled every year, almost twice as fast as the global average rate of deforestation – and protracted conflict has had a devastating impact on the continent’s wildlife. All of this is being still fueled by climate change. These are just a few of Africa‘s most endangered species that urgently need protection and conservation, before it’s too late.

10 most endangered species in Africa

1. Black Rhinoceros

Otherwise known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros, the black rhino is one of two species of rhinoceros native to Africa (the other being the white rhinoceros). Due to rampant poaching to meet a global demand for rhino horn, wildlife trade and trophy hunting, black rhino populations have been decimated and driven out a subspecies, the black rhino from the wild. ‘West (Diceros bicornis longipes), at extinction in 2011. Today, just over 5,600 individuals of the critically endangered animal remain and are restricted to just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. As a keystone species, meaning that it plays an important role within an ecosystem, significant efforts have been made to protect and restore the population, including protection and increased habitat monitoring, as well as tougher fines and penalties for rhino poachers.

2. African Elephant

In the 1970s, Africa was home to 1.3 million elephants. Today, that number has dropped to less than 30,000 in the wild. Like rhinos, elephants have been heavily targeted and poached throughout history due to the ivory trade; ivory tusks were treated as a precious commodity and a symbol of social status. As a result, approximately 90% of African elephants have been wiped out over the past century. Although much of the world has since banned the trade in elephant ivory, including China, illegal poaching and trade persists. But with significant conservation efforts, countries like Kenya have experienced a baby boom in elephants, more than double the population in 30 years. But other major threats weigh on the species: human-wildlife conflicts fueled by population growth and urban expansion, and droughts induced by climate change.




3. Gorilla

There are two species of gorillas, the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla, both of which are native to Africa and listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. A combination of factors have pushed the animal into such dire straits, including poaching, habitat loss due to logging and agricultural development, human conflict, and disease. In fact, one of the two subspecies of the western gorilla, the Cross River gorilla which lives in the border region between Cameroon and Nigeria, has seen its population drop to about 200-300 adults. Population recovery efforts can also be slow and difficult due to their low reproductive rate, with females only giving birth every four to six years – females also only spawning three or four times during their lifetime. life.

4. Saharan Cheetah

This endangered cat (but not a ‘Big Cat’) has been pushed to the brink of extinction due to severe habitat loss, forcing the animal to be restricted to 10% of its range historical. Its small remnant populations are now found only in Algeria and Niger, and isolated pockets across the Sahara and the Sahel, from Mali in the west to the Central African Republic in the east. Additionally, hunting by a growing local population in the area and the reduction of prey such as sheep and gazelles from the agricultural explosion have also contributed to the decline of the Saharan cheetah population to less than 250 individuals.

endangered species in africaPhoto credit: EO Photographer Josh Robertson

5. African Wild Dog

Also known as the African Painted Dog or African Hunting Dog, this critically endangered species in Africa is also the second most endangered carnivore on the continent. As wild dogs are very social, herding and traveling animals, they are incredibly sensitive to habitat change and fragmentation, which have been significantly reduced in recent decades. Illegal poaching and wildlife trade is rampant in African countries, and many African dogs have been accidentally caught in snares meant for other animals like antelopes. Despite their impressive speeds – they reach speeds of over 44 miles per hour the species has been unable to escape other threats like human conflict over livestock, infectious diseases like rabies and distemper, and competition with larger predators like lions due to the shrinkage of habitats. The largest populations are found mainly in southern Africa – where there are fewer than 550 individuals in the wild – and the southern part of East Africa, including Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Although snaring has been made illegal in nationally proclaimed game reserves in South Africa, far greater conservation efforts are needed to protect this rare mammal.

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6. African Penguin

There is a common misconception that penguins are only native to the Arctic when in fact there is a well-known species of breeding penguin that breeds in Africa, or more specifically in Namibia and South Africa . Unfortunately, the African penguin population is rapidly declining due to habitat loss and destruction, overfishing to meet global commercial demand, oil spills and marine pollution – the range of the penguin. he bird encompasses many trade and oil transportation routes – as well as warming oceans. temperatures. The species has lost about 95% of its population since pre-industrial times to about 14,700 pairs, based on 2021 estimates. In addition, guano harvests – accumulated droppings of seabirds and bats are much sought-after fertilizer – eliminated their preferred nesting substrate, leaving them exposed to predators, heat stress, flooding and rising sea levels .

endangered species in the desert, north african ostrich7. North African Ostrich

The North African ostrich is the largest bird on Earth. Historically, it was distributed throughout the Sahara Desert, spreading in 18 countries. Today, they are found only in Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic and Senegal. This flightless bird has been heavily targeted over the past 50 years; their feathers, meat and eggs are said to be valuable in the wildlife trade market. Like most animals on this list, the ostrich has suffered from habitat loss due to human expansion and desertification – a process by which land becomes infertile – causing increased food competition with other livestock and larger animals. Since its identification on the IUCN Red List, a number of conservation efforts have been underway to help restore the species, from introducing more ostriches to Senegal and rehabilitating the habitat to improved fencing and livestock management.

8. Dama Gazelle

The dama gazelle now lives in only about 1% of its historical range and is mainly found in the countries of Chad and Sudan. Despite its preference for arid territories, desertification and worsening droughts due to climate change have caused major habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as a reduction in the vegetation on which the gazelle can feed – thus increasing competition with man and livestock. The protracted wars in the region have also exacerbated all of these aforementioned factors. Today, less than 400 individuals are left in the wild.

9. Egyptian tortoise

Another native of the Saharan desert and the smallest species of tortoise – not exceeding 10cm in length at maturity, the Egyptian tortoise is virtually extinct from its native habitat due to habitat loss due to agriculture and to the expansion of tourism, and more particularly, of illegal activity. pet trade. According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Egyptian tortoises is estimated at about 7,470, but since they are not legally protected in Libya – where the species is mainly found – they are very vulnerable to further population decline. Despite ongoing captive breeding programs efforts to reintroduce Egyptian tortoises in the wild, they have mostly been slow and relatively unsuccessful.

10. Aphanius of the Sahara

This small freshwater pupfish, measuring only less than two inches long, is found nowhere else in the world except for the Sahara Desert in the Oued Saoura river basin near Mazzer, Algeria. Agricultural development, which has caused significant groundwater contamination and over-abstraction, as well as increasingly frequent and prolonged droughts, has seriously affected the aquatic vegetation on which species depend. This includes zooplankton and algae. The freshwater fish remains on the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species.

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