- From rising sea levels to changing temperatures, climate change is drastically impacting rainforest animals’ habitats.
- It’s estimated that chimpanzees could disappear in the next six decades.
- There are currently only 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild.
- Climate change has led humans to invade the habitats of mountain gorillas.
Climate change is already affecting ecosystems and environments around the world, putting vulnerable animals in danger of extinction. With research and activism underway, there is hope in saving animals from being wiped out completely.
From giant pandas to chimpanzees, here are 10 rainforest animals that may go extinct because of climate change.
Climate change is wiping out bamboo, which puts giant pandas in danger.
Giant pandas reside in the bamboo rainforests of China, and they rely solely on bamboo for food. Only 1,500 giant pandas exist in the wild today, according to National Geographic.
The creatures spend half of their day eating and consume up to 15% of their body weight in bamboo. But the tree-like plant is particularly vulnerable to effects from climate change, especially increasing temperatures, because of its unique reproductive cycle – bamboo only flowers every three decades, as reported by the Guardian.
A 2012 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change illustrated the importance of bamboo to the survival of giant pandas and other animals that rely on the plant for food and shelter. The scientists studied the bamboo in the Qinling Mountains of China and concluded that most species of bamboo will likely die off completely by the end of this century.
Asian elephants are losing access to fresh water.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, Asian elephants are under direct threat from climate change because they are sensitive to high temperatures and do not adapt easily to changing climates. It’s projected that temperatures will rise across South and Southeast Asia, and the region is also projected to see increases in heavy rain events during the wet seasons and a higher frequency of drought. This directly impacts Asian elephants as their daily activities, reproduction, and migration are all tied to having an available water source.
Fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants are alive today, and their numbers decline every year.
Asian elephants, which weight 11,000 pounds on average, also need vast amounts of water to remain healthy and active. But climate change is limiting their access to fresh water because of changing weather.
Philippine eagles are facing habitat destruction.
Philippine eagles are often called monkey-eating eagles, since their main food source is small monkeys like macaques. The eagles live in tropical rainforests, nesting among the highest branches and hunting for prey among the trees.
Philippine eagles are in danger of going extinct, with only an estimated 200 currently alive, according to Smithsonian magazine. The birds have an unusually low reproduction rate, often laying just a single egg in a year.
Philippine eagles’ population is declining due to rising temperatures, and they are also at risk because of the pollution and pesticides that their prey ingests. But their biggest threat is deforestation and logging, which has left the majority of Philippine eagles homeless.
Rising temperatures have forced toucans away from their natural habitat.
Toucans are large-billed birds found in the rainforests of South and Central America. As average temperatures increase around the world, toucans have gradually moved into more mountainous regions, since they prefer lower temperatures.
In Costa Rica, toucans have been migrating in large groups into the mountainous Bajo del Tigre forest reserve to escape the heat. Unfortunately, as they leave their natural habitats, toucans disrupt their own ecosystem and others, according to Friends of the Rainforest.
Toucans prefer to eat bird eggs, so when they arrive in new areas, they eat the eggs of other birds, some of which can also be endangered. If toucans decimate the populations of those other tropical birds, they also wind up limiting their own food resources.
Hawaiian honeycreepers are nearly extinct.
Hawaiian honeycreepers are native to the tropical rainforests of Hawaii. Fifty species of honeycreeper once existed, but today that number has dwindled to only 18, according to the Guardian.
A 2016 report published in the journal Science Advances warned that honeycreepers are in danger of going extinct in the next 10 years because of high temperatures and reduced resources.
“This study showed us two things: one, that the ones we already knew were in trouble were in even worse trouble than we thought – like, much worse trouble,” study co-author Lisa Crampton told The Verge. “And two, species that we thought were doing ok were actually now in trouble. So it was a really worrisome finding.”
Lemuroid ringtail possums cannot live in the heat.
Lemuroid ringtail possums live in the upper canopy of tropical rainforests in Cairns, Australia. But climate change has impacted the population of the l possums, since they cannot survive in temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit ( 30 degrees Celsius) for longer than four hours, according to the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science.
Rising temperatures have also reduced the amount of livable, moist canopies in the rainforest, leading lemuroid ringtail possum populations to decline. Active survey work is underway to determine how many of these creatures still exist.
Manatees are dying off in Florida due to cold spells.
As average global temperatures get higher, that can lead to more extreme weather and changes in precipitation. Those changes can even include abnormal cold spells and record-low temperatures. In Florida this year, 166 manatees died in the wintry months of January and February, Florida Today reported.
“Florida’s manatees are one big freeze away from an ecological disaster and need more, not less, protection,” Jeff Ruch, executive director of the group Protecting Employees who Protect our Environment (PEER) Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a press release. “Manatees may join polar bears as one of the first iconic victims of extinction in the wild from climate change … Florida must start doing a better job of reducing water pollution and protecting vital warm springs habitat if it expects to restore healthy manatee populations.”
Bengal tigers are being threatened by rising sea levels.
Climate change has led to rising sea levels, which are destroying vital Bengal tiger habitats along the coast of Bangladesh.
“If we don’t take steps to address the impacts of climate change on the Sundarbans, the only way its tigers will survive this century is with scuba gear,” Colby Loucks, the World Wildlife Fund’s deputy director of conservation, said in a release. “Tigers are a highly adaptable species, thriving from the snowy forests of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia. The projected sea-level rise in the Sundarbans will likely outpace the tiger’s ability to adapt.”
Climate change has led humans to invade the habitats of mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered apes that now face an additional threat from climate change. As temperatures increase, droughts are lasting longer and water sources are drying up in places like Rwanda, where a majority of mountain gorillas reside.
That has led local people to start penetrating deeper into the forest, increasing contact between humans and gorillas. That means gorillas’ resources are being taken, their habitats threatened, and their health put at risk by diseases from people.
“Climate change has an impact on the viability of gorilla populations. If there are any changes to food availability, then gorillas’ nutrition and food intake is affected, which makes them more sensitive to diseases,” Dr. Jean-Bosco Noheri, a veterinarian specializing in gorilla health, told Pacific Standard.
Chimpanzees could disappear in the next six decades.
Climate change has impacted weather patterns in Central Africa, causing erratic rainfall patterns that led to the loss of chimp habitats. In a 2015 study published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, scientists created models of that habitat loss and estimated the likelihood of chimpanzee survival over time.
“Preliminary projections suggest that rainfall patterns will change dramatically in this region of Africa, which will result in significant alterations of forest and savanna habitats,” the study said. “Models of global climate change also have been used to show that 30% of plant and animal species are at risk of extinction if the rise in mean global temperature exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius – an increase that is nearly certain to occur.”
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