On the Brink of Extinction

SAM, the three-year-old gorilla in the photo, certainly looks sad. But perhaps that should not surprise us. Hunters killed his mother, leaving him orphaned with no chance of returning to the wild. Unfortunately, just a few months after this picture was taken, Sam died of a respiratory ailment. But he was not the only gorilla with bleak prospects.

The relentless destruction of their natural habitat has put such creatures on the list of vulnerable species. And since gorillas are actually killed for food in some places, hunters equipped with modern rifles also seriously threaten the animals’ long-term survival. Although the future for gorillas sounds dismal, that of many other species is even more so.

A report prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) paints a gloomy picture of the state of much of the world’s wildlife. During the past few years, more species have become endangered, and the pace of the decline has been alarming. The IUCN, an organization that monitors the status of thousands of species, has recently published its Red List, designed to increase awareness of the plight of the planet’s embattled wildlife.

Nearly a quarter of all the world’s mammals and about an eighth of the birds are now threatened with extinction. And these are just the species that have been documented. The conservation status of the majority of our planet’s species remains unknown.

 If this tragic situation grieves you, how must our Creator feel about it? He states in his Word, the Bible: “All the animals in the forest are mine.” (Psalm 50:10, Today’s English Version) So he can hardly be oblivious to the wanton destruction of his own handiwork. In the book of Revelation, God assures us that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.

Protecting both the planet’s wildlife and its fragile environment, on which we all depend, are just two of the urgent tasks God’s Kingdom will take care of when ‘God makes all things new.’—Revelation 21:5; Matthew 6:10.

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 Tiger (Panthera tigris)

Estimated population in the wild: some 5,000 to 7,500 (down from about 100,000 a century ago)

Main threats: poaching, poisoning, loss of habitat, and isolation of tiger populations

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Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Estimated population in the wild: 1,000—making it one of the rarest mammals on earth

Main threats: low reproduction rates and destruction of the mountain bamboo forests on which it depends for food

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Foto: Zoo de la Casa de Campo, Madrid

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Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)

Estimated population in the wild: about 20,000

Main threats: forest fires, logging, poaching, and smuggling for the pet trade

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Foto: Zoo, Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, España

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Lesser (Red) Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

Estimated population in the wild: unknown, but it seems to be declining throughout its range as a result of human encroachment and a low breeding rate

Main threats: poaching, destruction of mountain bamboo forests, and livestock grazing

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Foto: Zoo de la Casa de Campo, Madrid

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Goeldi’s Monkey (Callimico goeldii)

Estimated population in the wild: unknown (this primate was only discovered in 1904)

Main threats: destruction of the Amazon rain forest and sparseness of populations, which could easily become isolated

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Foto: Zoo, Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, España

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Red-Crowned Crane (Grus japonensis)

Estimated population in the wild: about 2,000

Main threats: collisions with electric cables, destruction of breeding habitat, and contamination

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© 1986 Steve Kaufman