Dermochelys coriacea Leatherbacks are the largest of all sea turtles, measuring as long as eight feet and weighing as much as 2,000 pounds. They are also the deepest divers, plunging to depths as great as 1,200 meters as they hunt for jellyfish. Leatherbacks are distributed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Argentina. They migrate between continents, making both transatlantic and transpacific journeys between feeding and nesting sites. Populations have crashed over the last two decades—the result of poaching for egg and meat consumption, destruction of nesting sites from beachfront development, disorientation of hatchlings from the artificial lighting created by those developments, accidental capture by commercial fisherman and other factors. In 1980 the global population of nesting females was estimated at 115,000. Now that number has dropped to between 26,000 and 43,000.
Lynx pardinus The world’s most endangered cat species, the Iberian lynx once thrived in Spain, Portugal and southern France. Today, its numbers have dwindled to some 120 individuals divided between small populations in Spain’s Andalusia region. Habitat destruction, collisions with vehicles, poaching and a collapsing rabbit population have all contributed to the decline of this feline. As part of a conservation effort, the Spanish government has decided to release rabbits (the lynx’s favorite cuisine) into the wild. If the Iberian lynx disappears, it will be the first feral cat species to go extinct in some 2,000 years.
Pongo abelii There are no more than 7,500 Sumatran orangutans left in the world, and they are declining at a rate of roughly 1,000 per year, says Adam Tomasek, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Borneo and Sumatra Program. At this rate, the species will be wiped out within a decade. The primary cause of this population slide is rampant habitat loss from logging, fires and other human activities.