Northern White Rhinoceros: Here Are Four More Animals on the Brink

Conservationists and animal lovers around the world were saddened to hear of the death of the last male northern white rhino Tuesday. Poached for their horns, the subspecies is functionally extinct with just two females still alive.

But it's not all doom and gloom; some animals have bounced back from the brink of extinction. The northern white rhino's cousin, the southern white rhino, had a population as low as 100 back in 1895. Now, more than 20,000 of the animals roam in protected areas and game reserves after decades of conservation efforts.

Here are four more incredible creatures conservationists are battling to save.

Pangolin

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A pangolin climbs a tree. Piekfrosch/German Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

Pangolins are the only mammal whose body is totally covered in scales. These critters are named after the Malay word for "roller" (penggulung), because they curl up into a ball like a hedgehog when under attack.

Of eight pangolin species, two are considered "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ICUN). The Sunda Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are both at risk because of hunting and poaching for their meat and scales. All eight species are under threat.

Vaquita

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Two vaquitas. The small porpoises are critically endangered Paula Olson/NOAA/Public Domain

Vaquitas are the world's rarest marine mammal. Only about 30 of these little porpoises swim around the Gulf of California in Mexico according to the ICUN. The animals are most in danger from gillnets—walls of netting that hang in the sea to catch fish. Mexico banned the transportation and use of gillnets permanently in June 2017, but illegal fishing practices continue at high rates, the ICUN reports.

Javan rhino

The Javan rhino has dusky grey skin that resembles armor. The massive beasts can weigh up to 5,000 lbs and stand 6 feet tall and 10 feet long. Formerly residents of much of northeast India and southeast Asia, now fewer than 70 live in the Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. Those 70 animals represent the last of their species, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) reports.

The rhinos are poached for their horns, which are used in some medical traditions.

Amur leopard

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An armur leopard or Panthera pardus orientalis. Derek Ramsey/Wikimedia Commons

The amur leopard subspecies may be the rarest big cat in the world. Fast and deadly, the animals can run up to 37 miles per hour and leap up to 10 feet vertically.

Poached for its beautiful fur, numbers have dwindled below 60 in the past. Now, conservation efforts have improved prospects for the animals, which reside in the Russian far e. In 2012, the Russian Government created the "Land of the Leopard National Park," covering some 60 percent of the cat's habitat.

Transforming the food system

While some animals are hunted to near extinction, others dwindle because of habitat destruction, and some of the biggest threats to many animals come from the food system. One of the biggest impacts individuals can have on animal conservation is choosing what food to buy, Colin Butfield, director of external communications and campaigns at WWF told Newsweek.

Palm oil, soy for feeding beef and unsustainable fishing can all threaten wildlife. Butfield said we can help turn things around by choosing products that are sustainably sourced.

Transforming the food system, he said, could help lots of animals thrive. "With a little bit of effort we can all eat healthily, sustainably, and have a lot more wildlife."

Northern White Rhinoceros: Here Are Four More Animals on the Brink | Tech & Science