Endangered animals: WWF's winners and losers of 2019
The Earth is entering 2020 facing "the greatest extinction event since the dinosaurs," the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is warning. In 2019, some endangered species made gains and others suffered setbacks.
Twin crises of climate change and extinction
Forest fires in the Amazon scorched parts of the "Lungs of the Earth" in 2019. The "twin crises" of climate change and species extinction are accelerating and related, WWF's German arm said on Friday. More than 30,000 plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of human activity. The planet is losing biodiversity through poaching, habitat destruction and plastic in the oceans.
Last known female dies
We'll start with the struggling endangered species of 2019. The Yangtze giant soft shell turtle in China is the largest fresh water turtle in the world. The last female in captivity died in a Chinese zoo in 2019. There is now only a male at another zoo. There are believed to be two of the species still living in the wild, but their gender is unknown, WWF said.
Victim of wildfires
At least 500 jaguars were killed or pushed out of their territory due to Amazonian wildfires in Bolivia and Brazil in 2019. WWF said the majestic big cats that fled to other areas face greater competition and the threat of being killed by humans if they approach settlements.
Only 80 Sumatran rhinos left
The last Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia died of natural causes in 2019. According to WWF estimates, there are currently no more than 80 of the rhinos in Indonesia, divided into nine isolated populations. The animals' habitat is dwindling as the forest has been cleared for palm oil plantations, paper production and mining.
Emperor penguins threatened by climate change
If global warming continues to accelerate, WWF says the population of emperor penguins in Antarctica could decrease by 86% by 2100. Researchers are already observing massive declines in stocks and fewer surviving juveniles.
Koala populations hit by bushfires
A dehydrated and injured Koala receives treatment after being rescued from bushfires that have ravaged Australia. Hundreds of koalas have fallen victim. Large areas of eucalyptus forests, the habitat and food of the koala, have burned. Even without the fires, their population has been declining due to forest clearing. In the past 25 years, the population has dropped by around a third.
From ice sheets to garbage dumps
A stray polar bear roams through a garbage dump in the city of Norilsk, Russia. A third of the global population could disappear by 2050. The climate crisis is primarily to blame as the polar bear's habitat shrinks. On several occasions this year, groups of polar bears swam to settlements in northern Russia in search of food. This image was taken in June.
From the forests to traditional medicine shop
Asian elephants in Myanmar are killed for their skin, which is used in creams and dried for traditional medicine. WWF said there had been some success in halting the fast disappearance of the wild elephants through ranger training programs and anti-poaching measures.
Golden Jackal population grows
And now for the good, or at least better, news! The golden jackal — a close relative of wolves — is spreading from warmer areas of southeast Europe and settling in an increasingly mild central Europe, WWF said. Their population in Europe is now seven times greater than wolves. The golden jackal is also native to the Middle East, southern Asia, and regions of southeastern Asia
Last male finds a mate
A male Sehuencas water frog lived alone for almost ten years, the last of its kind in the Natural History Museum Alcide d’Orbigny in Bolivia. Now, as part of a targeted search, a female counterpart was found in the country's cloud forests. The dwindling species could survive through numerous offspring.
Found after 30 years
In 2019, several silver-backed chevrotains, commonly known as the Vietnam mouse-deer, were captured on camera in a forest in south central Vietnam. The rabbit-sized species was rediscovered after almost 30 years with no human sightings.
Recovering from deadly virus
In 2017, thousands of Mongolian saiga antelopes died from a virus that was spread by flocks of sheep and goats. The population shrank from 11,000 to 3,000 animals as a result of the epidemic. The population is still very weak, but the first saigas are now showing immunity to the deadly virus. WWF said this is a chance for the species to recover.