The populations of animals other than humans have declined in size by a staggering 60% in just over 40 years. One in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one in three amphibians are now in danger of extinction.
This mind-boggling loss of biodiversity has many causes. Climate change, illegal hunting, loss of habitat, and pollution all play a role in driving species to extinction.
The way we feed, fuel, and finance our societies is pushing nature to the brink of disaster. Entire ecosystems are suffering, but so are many species.
Here are just some of the endangered animals that inhabit the rainforest, along with the reasons why they’re on the verge of extinction:
1. The giant panda
These iconic black-and-white bears are media celebrities. Whether in the wild or in a zoo, these animals command attention.
Captive breeding programs in zoos are meant to insure the panda’s survival. Yet in the panda’s natural habitat in the bamboo rainforests of China, only 1500 giant pandas remain.
The panda’s Achilles heel is its diet. Pandas only eat bamboo, a tree-like plant that’s dying off due to climate-change-induced high temperatures. Too-high temperatures interfere with bamboo’s reproductive cycle. That’s particularly bad news for bamboo since it only flowers once in 30 years.
Scientists who study bamboo in the Qinling Mountains of China are pessimistic about the survival of most species past 2099.
2. The Philippine eagle
Philippine eagles live in the uppermost branches of tropical rainforests and hunt for prey among the trees. They’re often referred to as monkey-eating eagles, since they primarily eat small monkeys like macaques.
Only about 200 of these majestic birds are left in the wild. Part of the problem is that the eagles have an unusually low reproduction rate, often producing only a single egg per year.
The birds’ population is shrinking due to increasing temperatures. They’re also harmed by pollution and by pesticides that their prey ingests. The main issue, though, is deforestation brought about by logging, which has left most of the eagles homeless.
3. The Hawaiian honeycreeper
Another severely endangered bird is the Hawaiian honeycreeper. The small birds, most of which smell “rather like old canvas tents,” are native to Hawaiian tropical rainforests.
Twenty species of honeycreepers have recently fallen over the cliff of extinction. Before that, many more species of honeycreepers disappeared when people introduced non-native animals including rats, pigs, and cows, and converted honeycreeper habitat for agriculture.
Of the 18 surviving species of honeycreepers, all of them are in danger of becoming extinct by 2026. The chief culprits are high temperatures and reduced resources.
4. The lemuroid ringtail possum
The teeny-tiny lemuroid ringtail possum (it weighs 750-1100 grams) lives in the upper canopy of tropical rainforests in Cairns, Australia. The high temperatures brought about by climate change are devastating the population of this critter.
According to the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science, the possums can’t live for longer than four hours when temperatures climb above 86°F (30°C). Rising temperatures not only kill off the possums, but they’ve also decreased the amount of livable, moist rainforest canopies.
We don’t know exactly how many lemuroid ringtail possums are still alive. The local government is currently conducting a population survey to try and get best case estimate.
5. The manatee
Manatees, known as “sea cows,” live all around the world. Their preferred habitat is the warm-water coastlines and rivers of Florida, the Caribbean, Africa, the Amazon, and parts of Asia. The 3.0-3.66-meter gentle giants consume a variety of oceanic and freshwater plants.
Unlike the other animals on this list, manatees don’t suffer directly from the heat caused by climate change. Rather, they suffer from climate-change-induced low temperatures. As average global temperatures increase, that can lead to extreme weather and changes in precipitation. “Extreme weather” can include cold spells.
"Florida’s manatees are one big freeze away from an ecological disaster,” warns Jeff Ruch, executive director of the group Protecting Employees who Protect our Environment (PEER). Ruch proposes that Florida reduce water pollution and protect warm springs habitat to maintain healthy manatee populations.
The Florida manatee was considered “endangered” in 1991, when fewer than 1,300 manatees plied Florida’s waters. Thanks to government protective efforts, the manatee population inched up to almost 6,000 by 2019, earning the mammal a designation of “threatened.”
The manatee’s story gives us cause for cautious optimism. As the freeze warnings indicate, though, we can’t rest on our laurels.
6. The Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey
Other monkeys are endangered—some critically so—but this species is one of the rarest primates in the world. Only an estimated 250 remain in the Ecuador’s Chocóan rainforests.
These creatures don’t suffer so much from climate change as from hunting and the loss of their forest habitat. Palm oil plantations threaten to overtake their habitat.
Fortunately, OMA’s conservation partner, Rainforest Trust, is working feverishly to save the brown-headed spider monkey from extinction by protecting the primate’s habitat. Working with several other organizations, Rainforest Trust is establishing a core protected area of 1,729 acres.
Also, Rainforest Trust is helping establish a sustainable cacao project in the buffer zone of the preserve. That will allow producers to protect the rainforest while earning fair trade prices for their chocolate.
You may be tired of hearing this by now, but we’re all in this together. People’s survival depends on nature and the creatures that inhabit it. Globally, nature provides services worth about $125 trillion a year. It also offers incalculable value from fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and more.
One of the ways we can protect nature is doing all we can to ensure the survival of endangered species. With concerted effort, we can turn the tide even for critically endangered species.
The small choices we make in our everyday lives influence whether or not species survive. One small way that you can help is by purchasing an OMA bracelet.
Every OMA bracelet funds the protection of an entire ACRE of vulnerable rainforest, the planting of a tree, and provides fair-trade opportunities for the indigenous communities who call it home.
Deforestation is one of the main culprits in pushing rainforest species to the verge of extinction, so purchase a bracelet today and join us in the fight to protect as many endangered species as possible!