September fourth is National Wildlife Day, a time to raise awareness for endangered species across the globe. Founded in 2005 by animal behaviorist Colleen Paige, National Wildlife Day recognizes animal species that need to be preserved and protected year after year. In addition to this, National Wildlife Day also sheds light on zoos and animal sanctuaries who play an important role in preserving endangered animals and educating the public, as well as activists who work to protect these species.
With the list of endangered animal species growing longer each year, recognizing National Wildlife Day is more important than ever. Here are just a few of the species across the globe that are endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF):
1. Amur leopard
Also known as the Manchurian or Korean leopard, the Amur leopard lives in the Russian Far East and has a life-span of about 10-15 years in the wild. Amur leopards are critically endangered, with fewer than 60 in existence today.
2. Black rhino
With just over 5,500 black rhinos in existence today, this species has been the victim of poaching and black-market trafficking of rhino horn for years. Black rhinos inhabit the east coast of the African continent and, like the Amur leopards, are considered critically endangered.
3. Cross River gorilla
There are only about 200 to 300 Cross River gorillas left in the Congo Basin, which is their natural habitat located in Central Africa. Poaching, as well as human efforts to encroach on their territory, has had a detrimental effect on the Cross River gorilla population.
4. Asian elephant
Asian elephants can be found in the Eastern Himalayas and live on a diet consisting largely of grass, tree bark, leaves, and cultivated crops such as rice and bananas. This species is considered endangered, with a population of fewer than 50,000.
5. Blue whale
Weighing approximately 2 tons with a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, the blue whale is the largest animal on the planet. Although their species originally dwindled because of the whaling industry, the major threats to the blue whale population today are entanglements in fishing gear and vessel strikes.
After the death of Australian conservationist Steve Irwin, National Wildlife Day is now celebrated in his honor on both February 22nd and September 4th. National Wildlife Day highlights the importance of species like these in order to protect them from extinction, and also gives us a chance to be thankful for our own animals. To learn more about National Wildlife Day, you can read about it here. If you’d like to educate yourself on endangered species and why they matter, head to the World Wildlife Fund website.