A new survey has revealed what Scots don’t know about the most endangered animal species on Earth.
500 people in Scotland were asked by luxury travel specialists Mahlatini which of 12 animal species they believed were critically endangered, in an aim to shed light on how much we have yet to learn about the world’s most vulnerable animals.
With numbers now below 5000, the black rhino topped the survey – as 45% of respondents correctly identified the animal as being critically endangered.
40% of voters also believe that the African elephant – the largest animal on Earth – belongs to a critically endangered species, in spite of its vulnerable status.
However, as a result of poaching for ivory, African elephant numbers have dropped by around 110,000 in the last ten years – and Prince William, patron of the conservation charity Tusk, has warned that the species “will be gone from the wild” by the time Princess Charlotte turns 25.
39% of all respondents mistakenly identified the vulnerable polar bear as critically endangered - making the planet’s biggest land-based carnivore the third most popular answer in the survey.
As climate change threatens the polar bear’s sea ice habitat, organisations like WWF are making the protection of this species a key concern.
Sharing 96.4% of our genes, orangutans are another critically endangered species – as 34% of Scots appear to know – with just 31,000 Bornean and around 7,500 Sumatran orangutans left on Earth.
The western lowland gorilla, another critically endangered species to which Cincinnati Zoo’s Harambe belonged, took 31% of the overall vote and almost half of the 35-44 year old vote.
Although the western lowland gorilla is known to be the world’s most widespread gorilla subspecies, its population is unknown – as these animals inhabit some of Africa’s most dense and remote rainforests.
Not long after after 38-year-old Jia Jia, the world’s oldest giant panda, was euthanised at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, 31% of Scots surveyed said they thought the species was critically endangered.
In fact, after almost half a century of conservation efforts, the giant panda lost its endangered status on September 4 this year and is now considered vulnerable.
Reds, whites and blues
Other species featured in the survey included the red squirrel (19%), the great white shark (19%) and the Seychelles blue pigeon (16%).
Noted as species of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, neither the red squirrel nor the Seychelles blue pigeon are currently endangered – although the future of the red squirrel remains uncertain, as the Eastern grey squirrel continues to displace this species.
The world’s largest predatory fish, the great white shark, is classed as a vulnerable species – with numbers dropping rapidly as unregulated fishing continues and shark products are traded internationally for human consumption.
Land and sea
18% of all respondents, and a third of 55-64 year olds, declared the sea turtle a critically endangered animal – while 17% of Scots also classed the Cape buffalo as one of the world’s most threatened species.
Helping to maintain an equilibrium in marine habitats for the last 100 million years, vulnerable sea turtles are slaughtered for their shells, skin, eggs and meat.
With a population of 900,000, the Cape buffalo is a species of least concern – although this African bovine is a highly sought-after hunting trophy and part of the “big five” hunting game.
Hunted for thousands of years for its meat and oil, 17% of participants mistook vulnerable sea-dwelling mammal the dugong for a critically endangered species.
Respondents were allowed to select multiple answers to the following question:
Which of the following species do you think are critically endangered?
Black rhino (critically endangered): 45.1%
African elephant (vulnerable): 39.8%
Polar bear (vulnerable): 38.5%
Orangutan (critically endangered): 34.0%
Western lowland gorilla (critically endangered): 31.4%
Giant panda (vulnerable): 31.0%
Red squirrel (least concern): 19.1%
Great white shark (vulnerable): 18.8%
Sea turtle (vulnerable): 17.5%
Cape buffalo (least concern): 16.6%
Dugong (vulnerable): 16.6%
Seychelles blue pigeon (least concern): 16.0%