As Chris Shepherd, director of the conservation group Traffic South East Asia, explains, “So many species are just not popular enough, or well-known enough to share the spotlight with the world’s threatened megafauna.”
In fact, the relative obscurity of these animals puts them in greater danger than well-recognized species such as giant pandas and white rhinos. Their lack of attention translates to a lack of protection.
According to the Seahorse Trust, seahorse populations have declined by as much as 50 to 80 percent around the globe. This is due in part to human development in coastal waters, but also largely to seahorses being a popular ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine. This year, Hong Kong customs has intercepted 1,000 pounds of smuggled, dried seahorses, valued at about $130,000. The Seahorse Trust estimates that 150 million seahorses are used in Chinese medicine each year.
2) Sun Bears
The International Union for Conservation of Nature believes sun bear populations have decreased by 30 percent in the last 30 years. Found mainly in southeast asia, their habitat is disappearing due to deforestation and commercial clearing for palm oil plantations. Sun bears are also victims of poaching, their paws and gall bladder prized as delicacies and medicine respectively.
“Few people know of the threats this species faces, and fewer care,” says Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior program officer of Traffic South East Asia. “There are only a handful of people working to save the sun bear, all of them with inadequate amounts of funding, low levels of government support, and very little support from the public.”
3) Slow Lorises
In Java, the slow loris population has declined by as much as 80 percent. The remaining four subspecies, found in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, have experienced declines of 30 percent. The lemur-like primate has become a popular exotic pet because of its wide eyes and “cute” face, but the stresses of transportation, captivity and forced daytime activity often prove fatal. Slow lorises habitats are also disappearing due to deforestation.
Dugongs once ranged across 140,000 kilometers of coastline, feeding on the sea grasses that grew along the coasts. Pollution and coastal runoff have killed many of these grasses, and trawling, mining and land reclamation have smothered the rest. The decreased food source has led to die offs among the dugong population, and they have been declared extinct in Taiwan, Mauritius and the Maldives.
5) Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises
The decline in freshwater turtles and tortoises has reached such a stage that it has been dubbed the “asian turtle crisis.” Illegal trade in the creatures, as both exotic pets and as food, has brought them near extinction.
You can read the full article on Time’s website.