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10 animal species on the very edge of extinction

 Sudan, the last  male northern white rhino

It is one of the world’s most exclusive lists- but one that shames us all.

Almost 3,000 species are now on the World Wildlife Fund’s roll-call of critically endangered animals, and the death this week of the only surviving male northern white rhino should serve as a warning for the fate of many others.

Sudan’s death aged 45 leaves two females, making IVF the only hope for the species to survive. Heather Sohl, WWF’s chief wildlife adviser, said: “His death is devastating. We’re seeing the extinction of the northern white rhino happen right before our eyes, driven by the demand for their horns. And many other threats to wildlife at the hands of humans are also on the rise.”

Heather says land use for farming, timber, mining and infrastructure is destroying habitats, putting plants and animals under greater pressure.

The fallout from climate change is also beginning to take its toll.

Here we look at 10 animal species whose numbers are so low they are on the very edge of extinction.

Vaquita porpoise: 30 Left

This porpoise was only discovered in the Gulf of California in 1958 – and a little over half a century later, we are on the brink of losing them for ever.

A panel of experts put together by Mexico and Barack Obama to protect the vaquita has warned of harmful fishing methods, as the mammals get caught up in shrimp nets.

Sumatran rhino: Fewer than 100 left

These compete for the unenviable title of most threatened rhino species.

While surviving better than the Javan rhino they are more threatened by poaching as their horns are sought for traditional Chinese medicine.

Just two captive females have reproduced in 15 years.

South China tiger: None left in the wild

There were 4,000 in the early 1950s, but thousands were killed by hunters until the population dwindled to just 30-80.

Even though China banned hunting in 1979, the South China tiger is considered “functionally extinct” as it has not been sighted in the wild for more than 25 years.

A charity called Save China’s Tigers is trying to save them by taking them out of zoos, breeding them, allowing them to regain their hunting abilities, and then reintroducing them into the wild.

Mountain gorilla:  880 left

A bleak outlook a couple of decades ago is now brighter thanks to conservation efforts. Despite ongoing civil conflict, poaching and encroaching humans, numbers have risen and efforts go on in Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo.

Sumatran tiger: 400-500 left

Just 400 are holding on in remaining patches of forest on Sumatra- down from around 1,000 at the end of the 1970s.

Deforestation and heavy poaching mean this creature could end up like its extinct Javan and Balinese relatives.

Malayan tiger: 250 -340 left

Only found on the Malay Peninsula and in the southern tip of Thailand, both heavily populated with humans.

The World Wildlife Foundation is working to cut poaching through education and setting up protected areas.

Western Lowland gorilla: Unknown status

Poaching and disease have brought numbers down by 60 per cent in 20 to 25 years due to loss of their Central African habitat and being killed for bush meat.

Even if all threats vanished, they’d take 75 years to recover.

Javan rhino: 58-68 left

The most threatened of the five rhino species, the 58-68 still alive are all in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

Javan rhinos once lived throughout North East India and South East Asia. Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was poached in 2010. Indonesia is trying to establish a separate population elsewhere.

Cross River gorilla: 200-300 left

Endangered by poachers and deforestation, these are scattered in 11 groups across rainforests and forests in Cameroon and Nigeria.

Conservation is ongoing in Nigeria- last year the government rerouted a new highway that was a major threat.

Amur leopard: 60 left

Solitary, quick and caring, the males of this species help rear their young.

But hunting, climate change, habitat loss and deforestation in Russia and China have left them critically endangered.

A breeding programme with Moscow Zoo could soon see more than 200 captive leopards released to a protected area.

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