THE WILD

SPECIES

Out of every continent on the planet; unfortunately, Asia is home to the highest quantity of endangered species.  At present, there are 3,330 at risk across just 10 countries.  As wealth Southeast Asia has increased, so has the desire for exotic wildlife products, which itself has outgrown the boundaries of the region.  While local poaching is rampant, the huge demand for these products has resulted in a black market that’s spread across the globe with ties to Africa and, more recently, South America.  

Every one of the countries below is home to species that have suffered greatly as a result of the illegal wildlife trade, but also it’s important to understand that each nation has its own unique set of challenges.  Public and private initiatives to protect endangered species in these countries vary in regards to their success, and our mission is to work closely to support governments and non-profit organisations across Southeast Asia.

Click on one of the images below to find out more.

endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response
endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response
endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response
endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response
endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response

ASIAN ELEPHANTS

STATUS: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

  • Sumatran Elephant – Elephas Maximus Sumatranus
  • Indian Elephant – Elephas Maximus Indicus 
  • Sri Lankan Elephant – Elephas Maximus Maximus

HABITAT

Asian elephants inhabit grasslands and forests across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, with almost half of all surviving wild elephants living in the latter.  They are still spread throughout the region, although there are thought to be fewer than 250 wild elephants remaining in Cambodia, while less than half that number remain in Vietnam – in Pakistan, they are extinct. The Sumatran and Sri Lankan have always lived in their species’ namesakes; however, the regions in which they reside have halved in recent decades through poaching and deforestation.

THREATS

While Asian elephants are killed for their meat, skin, and tail hair, the main motivation for poachers is their tusks, and there is still a lucrative ivory market for decorative items, jewellry, and medicine.  At the end of the 20th century, the Southeast Asian elephant population in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos plummeted by 75%, mainly due to illegal poaching.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

While saving a species from extinction should be enough motivation in itself, elephants play an extremely important role in promoting biodiversity within their environment.  They eat a vast amount of vegetation – up to 250kg per day – which helps spread seeds around their habitat, and their migratory paths open up space and clearings that allow sunlight to reach new seedlings, promoting forest regeneration.  When water is scarce, they’re one of the few animals that can dig beneath the ground to find it, which ultimately benefits the other thirsty species in its surroundings.

ASIAN RHINOS

STATUS: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

  • Javan Rhino  – Rhinoceros Sondaicus 
  • Sumatran Rhino – Dicerorhinus Sumatrensis
  • Greater One-horned – Rhino Rhinoceros Unicornis

HABITAT

The Javan rhino was once the most widespread of the Asian rhinoceros and could be found almost everywhere across Southeast Asia – today they’re believed to the most endangered live mammal on the planet, with just a handful located on the island of Java, Indonesia. Simarlily, the Greater One-horned rhinos’ habitat once ranged most of Asia, but is now limited to India and Nepal. As with the the Javan Rhino, the Sumatran rhino once roamed as far as eastern Indian and the Eastern Himalayas, as far south as the Malay Peninsula and through China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. Today, their two surviving subspecies exist solely on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where less than 80 remain.

THREATS

Rhinos are most sought after for their horns which have been a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries.  Unsurprisingly, modern medicine has shown no evidence of any medical benefits to consuming rhino horn, but that hasn’t stopped markets growing, with people believing it can cure everything from terminal illnesses to hangovers.  One of the most recent booms in demand for rhino horn has been among the middle and upper classes of Vietnam where, alongside its perceived medicinal properties, it’s viewed as a status symbol, and frequently gifted to family members, people in positions of authority, and business partners. An international ban has done little to reduce demand for the product, and one kilo of horn can fetch up to $30,000 USD.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Rhinos have played a key role in their environment for millions of years.  As with elephants, they spread seeds around their habitat due to their huge plant intake, promoting biodiversity in the region.  They also clear the dense grasslands near rivers through their sheer size, allowing smaller herbivores to access the resources they require to thrive.

TIGERS

STATUS: ENDANGERED – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

  • Sumatran Tiger – Panthera Tigris Sumatrae
  • Indochinese Tiger – Panthera Tigris Corbetti 
  • Malayan Tiger – Panthera Tigris Jacksoni

HABITAT

Like their elephant and rhino counterparts, the Sumatran tiger’s numbers have been reduced to less than 400 – less than half the number remaining three decades ago –  due to poaching and reforestation, and they cling to survival in the remote forest regions of Sumatra. The Indochinese tiger can be found spread all across Southeast Asia; although, unfortunately not as easily as in the past. Again, poaching caused their numbers to plummet by over 70% in a little more than a decade, with an estimated 250 – 350 spread out across 6 countries: Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Malayan tigers are as much risk of extinction, and just over 300 remain in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.

THREATS

Every single part of the tiger has value in the illegal wildlife trade, making poaching their greatest threat.  As with most animals hunted in this way, they are an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, with tiger bone being seen as particularly potent.  On top of this, tiger parts are being seen as status symbols among the rich, and their skin and teeth are used for ornaments and jewellery. As the tigers live in extremely remote areas, it’s difficult to provide them with the protection they need from the well-equipped, transnational crime syndicates that pursue them.  The death of one tiger has a domino effect on the entire population; if a male is killed, the remaining males will fight viciously for his territory, often resulting in injury or death. If a female with cubs is killed, her cubs will likely die too, making repopulation almost impossible.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

As apex predators, tigers play a pivotal role on keeping the diversity of their ecosystem in check by preying on herbivores and maintaining the balance of the food chain.  Both nature and humans depend on the stability of these ecosystems for their well being and survival. Additionally, tiger conservation projects can be used to boost tourism to the areas in which they live, providing opportunities for low-income communities to raise their quality of life.

PANGOLINS

STATUS: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

  • Chinese Pangolin – Manis Pentadactyla
  • Sunda Pangolin – Manis Javanica
  • Philippine Pangolin – Manis Culionensis
  • Indian Pangolin  – Manis Crassicaudata

HABITAT

In Southeast Asia there are four species of pangolin clinging to survival.  Pangolins can live in a variety of forest types, as well as in agricultural fields and grasslands, all across the region. Chinese pangolin can be found from southern China, and all the way through eastern Nepal, Bhutan, northern India, and northeast Bangladesh. The Sunda pangolin, also known as the Javan or Malayan pangolin, can be found living in the trees throughout the Southeast Asian region, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Brunei, Sumatra, and Java. The Philippines have their own species of pangolin, endemic to Palawan province, and the Indian pangolin is native to the Indian subcontinent and, while technically widespread, is now a rarity in the country.

THREATS

Highly sought after in both China and Vietnam for their meat and scales, pangolins are now the most trafficked mammals in the world.  Their flesh is seen as a delicacy and their unique scales are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their falsely perceived ability to treat an array of illnesses and ailments.  Their skin and scales are also used to make valuable ornaments and jewelry to show high status. While it’s hard to know how many pangolin remain in the wild, an estimated one million have been stolen from the wild to feed consumer demand over the past decade, resulting in an increase of almost 80% in their numbers. In addition to being easy for poachers to catch, pangolin only produce one offspring per year, making it extremely difficult to slow and reverse the rate of depopulation.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

All animals have a special role to play in the balance of their ecosystem, and a single insectivorous pangolin can eat up to 70 million insects per year; a number which, if impacted dramatically, can have a devastating effect on the surrounding fauna and flora.  Not only are pangolin extremely well adapted to their role of nature’s pest control, but their burrowing habits make them efficient gardeners – when they use their great claws to dig for ants and termites or to dig for shelter, they mix and aerate the soil, aiding the decomposition cycle and improving the quality of its nutrients.  This allows vegetation to grow and flourish, while smaller animals seek refuge in the pangolins’ abandoned underground burrows.

SEA TURTLES

STATUS: VULNERABLE

  • Leatherback Turtle – Dermochelys Coriacea
  • Green Turtle  – Chelonia Mydas
  • Hawksbill Turtle – Eretmochelys Imbricata

HABITAT

Not only is the Leatherback turtle the largest species of turtle still in existence, but it’s also the most widespread, and can be found in open waters as far north as Norway and Alaska, and as far south as New Zealand.  The Pacific subspecies, native to Malaysia, once had the largest nesting population on the plane with almost 10,000 nests made each year; today, due to egg consumption by humans, the population has effectively been wiped out. Green turtles can also be found throughout both the Atlantic and Pacific regions where they prefer to stay closer to coastlines and shallow waters, before attempting to nest on sandy beaches.

THREATS

Almost all remaining species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered due to overexploitation and poaching.  Turtles are targeted for their decorative shells, as well as for their skin, meat, and eggs, which are seen as a delicacy in many areas throughout Southeast Asia. The beaches on which they nest have become destroyed by pollution or taken over by the booming tourism industry, and climate change has raised the temperature of the sands, affecting the sex of the new turtle hatchlings.  Even when turtles aren’t being targeted, they often end up as “bycatch,” accidental victims of fishing vessels of every size.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Aside from their ancient cultural significance, sea turtles are an integral part of the marine ecosystem for a number of reasons and are critical to maintaining healthy seas.  They graze on algae and seagrass, keeping the seabeds in optimum condition for species like tuna fish, lobster, and shrimp. Their rich, green diet means they excrete a nutrient-filled waste that many plants and animals thrive on, and these environments are key to the survival of numerous marine species. Some turtles, like the Hawksbill, are great cleaners that help coral reefs to flourish by removing sponges, and the Leatherback’s taste for jellyfish keeps the population to manageable levels.

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endangered species, The Wild, Wild Response

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