Wednesday, January 20, 2010;
The World Wildlife Fund has released its annual list of the most threatened species in 2010, and it includes some of the most-loved animals on the planet. The group says the long-term survival of many of these species is threatened by climate change and loss of habitat.
Here is the list, with information about the particular problems facing each animal.
Tiger: The cutting down of forests, called deforestation, and climate change are reducing the size of the tiger's natural habitat. Tigers also are killed by poachers for skins and other body parts, which are used in some ancient Asian medicines.
Polar bear: Loss of ice means polar bears have smaller hunting and breeding grounds, leading some experts to predict the species could be extinct within 100 years.
Pacific walrus: These animals also use floating ice for resting and raising their young, so loss of ice could dramatically affect their ability to survive.
Magellanic penguin: Warming ocean temperatures are forcing these birds to swim farther to find food, making survival more difficult.
Leatherback turtle: One of the largest reptiles on the planet, leatherbacks are often caught or killed accidentally by commercial fishing operations. Rising sea levels could pose a threat to seaside nesting areas.
Bluefin tuna: This giant tuna, widely used in sushi restaurants, is at serious risk of extinction due to overfishing.
Mountain gorilla: Wars in Africa, where this subspecies of gorilla lives, have shrunk its habitats. Conservation efforts have lifted the number of mountain gorillas slightly, but there are still only about 720 left.
Monarch butterfly: Monarchs spend the winter months in Mexico, but their forest habitats are being illegally cut down. Protecting the monarch requires countries to work together.
Javan rhinoceros: Deforestation and poaching have brought this rhino to the brink of extinction. There are fewer than 60 of these animals living in native habitats in Asia.
Giant panda: Scientists have been working to save pandas for decades, but still there are fewer than 2,500 pandas in the wild. Because of China's geography, panda groups tend to be small and isolated, so the animals can't interact or mate.
-- Margaret Webb Pressler