Though rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s animal and plant species, deforestation and urban development are placing a large number of these species at serious risk. According to the World Wildlife Federation, these destructive human activities have caused the species extinction rate to increase substantially, making it anywhere between 100 to 1,000 times higher than it would be if natural selection were allowed to run its own course.
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The chimpanzee is a primate native to the rainforests and woodland savannahs of Africa. Famously studied by primatologist Jane Goodall in the 1960s, in the interim, chimpanzees have suffered enormous population losses. Illegal hunting, infectious diseases and the loss of habitat caused by deforestation have all contributed their share to endanger the chimpanzee, posing a great risk to survival of its species in the wild.
The Bornean orang-utan is native to the tropical and subtropical rainforests of Borneo. According to the World Wildlife Federation, approximately one-third of the entire species was lost due to forest fires in the late 1990s. Other factors that have placed the Borneo orang-utan on the endangered species list include loss of habitat from illegal logging conducted in their primary habitat.
The largest member of the primate family, the gorilla is one of the most critically endangered rainforest species. There are four gorilla species in the world; the Mountain gorilla, Eastern Lowland gorilla, Western Lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla. Of these four species, the Mountain gorilla and the Cross River gorilla are the most threatened. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Cross rRver gorilla is one of the top 25 most endangered animals in the world. Mountain gorilla numbers have severely declined as well, with only about 700 individuals left in the wild. A variety of factors, including loss of habitat and illegal hunting, have caused these severe declines.
African Forest Elephant
The African Forest elephant, also known as the African pygmy elephant, lives in the equatorial rainforests of Western and Central Africa. Smaller than their distant relatives, the African and Asian elephant, African Forest elephants grow to approximately 8 feet tall. At the dawn of the 20th century, approximately three to five million elephants flourished in Africa. Today, about 500,000 remain, with the African Forest elephant consisting of only one-third of that number.
The Sumatran rhinoceros is a severely endangered rainforest species that can be found in small pockets of the rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is the smallest species of rhinoceros, approximately 8 feet long and about 4 to 5 feet tall. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only Asian rhinoceros species to have two horns, located on their nose. It is difficult to determine the exact number of individuals left in the wild due to their preferred habitat, the thick undergrowth of the rainforest, which makes it easy for the rhinoceros to hide. However, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, approximately only 300 individuals remain in the wild.
The slender loris is native to the tropical rainforests located in Sri Lanka and southern India. This small primate is approximately the size of a chipmunk. These arboreal creatures spend most of their lives high in the rainforest trees, but due to excessive logging and deforestation, loss of habitat has caused a significant decline in their population, making them an endangered species in the wild.
Red-shanked Douc Langur
The Red-shanked Douc Langur is a medium-sized primate that lives in the upper canopy of the secondary rainforests of Laos and Vietnam. Red-shanked Douc Langurs are arboreal, spending almost their entire lives within the trees of the rainforest. Deforestation is a serious threat to the langur, as it removes its main food sources and natural habitat. The animal's primary threat is vthe native people of the area, who hunt it for food and for body parts that are used in their traditional medicine treatments. These factors have caused the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s to place the Red-shanked Douc Langur on its red list of endangered species.
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