National Wildlife Day: 5 Animals on IUCN Red List That You Must Know


Today on September 4, we celebrate National Wildlife Day, founded in 2005 by animal behaviourist and philanthropist Colleen Paige. This special day highlights the unique place of wildlife as an essential component of the world’s biodiversity, as well as a key pillar of livelihoods for people, particularly among communities that live close to nature.

Unregulated or poorly managed human activities have severely impacted both local and global ecosystems, altering biodiversity and putting the very existence of many species under threat.

National Wildlife Day is celebrated on two dates — the original September 4th, and February 22nd, to honour the memory and birthday of Wildlife Warrior, Steve Irwin.

This is a shortened version of the full feature “Red List” featuring 14 critically endangered animals by Rachel Kwek,​ which appeared in Asian Geographic No. 136 Issue 3/2019. We spotlight 5 Asian species listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. Adapted for online publication by Goh Pearl Lyn.

1. Malayan Tiger

Panthera tigris jacksoni

Image from Pixabay

Status: Critically Endangered

Region: Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia)

Population remaining: 250 – 340

Classified as Indochinese tigers until DNA testing in 2004 showed them to be a separate subspecies, the Malayan tiger’s Latin name —Panthera tigris jacksoni— honours Peter Jackson, the famous tiger conservationist.

Wild Malayan tigers are found only in the forests on the Malay Peninsula and on the southern tip of Thailand. The destruction of forests for timber, commercial plantations and road development is largely responsible for the tigers’ loss of habitat, which has declined from about 98,8000km2 before the 1970s to about 44,700km in 2014.

The trade of tiger parts for medicine or other uses is also a threat to Malayan tigers. Organisations such as Panthera and WWF have supported the species’ conservation through data collection and education.

2. Red-Headed Vulture

Sarcogyps calvus

Image from Pixabay

Status: Critically Endangered

Region: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam

Population remaining: 2,500 – 9,999

The red-headed vulture is the sole member of the Sarcogyps genus and is one of the few species of large vultures that live alone or as a breeding pair. They are found at an altitude of up to 2500m in wooded hills and forests in semi-arid areas and semi-deserts.

Its striking bald head was thought to protect it from infection but may actually help the bird regulate body temperature. Previously common in Southeast Asia, this species has been rapidly decreasing in numbers in the recent past. Its decline has been attributed to the use of the drug Diclofenac by veterinarians.

3. Yellow Goldflake

Caridina spinata

Image from

Status: Critically Endangered

Region: Indonesia (Sulawesi)

Population remaining: Decreasing

Also known as the yellow cheek shrimp, this freshwater shrimp is only found in Lake Towuti in Sulawesi. Published in the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered this year, the yellow goldflake is heavily harvested for the aquarium trade.

Predators introduced to nearby Lake Matano, in particular flowerhorn cichlids, are expected to spread downstream to Lake Towuti and cause severe population decline. Nickel mining and hydroelectric power installations on the Danau Matano outlet also pose threats to these animals. No specific conservation measures are in place to protect this species.

4. Chinese Pangolin

Manis pentadactyla

Image by Song Qiao from Getty Images

Status: Critically Endangered

Region: Bhutan, China, Hong Kong, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, China, Thailand and Vietnam

Population remaining: Decreasing

Pangolins are among the most traded wild animal in the world with about 100,000 of them hunted for sale each year. Its meat is considered a delicacy in China, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia, and researchers have warned that the Chinese pangolin could be eaten to the point of extinction.

Illegal poaching and trade persist despite legislation such as the ban on the export of Asian pangolins removed from the wild for commercial purposes under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has been in place since 2000. All eight pangolin species are classified from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered by IUCN.

5. Okinawa Woodpecker

Dendrocopos noguchii

Image from biodiversity.okinowa

Status: Critically Endangered

Region: Japan

Population remaining: 50-249

Like the yellow goldflake, the Okinawa woodpecker is a critically endangered species that can only be found in one unique habitat – the Yanbaru forests of northern Okinawa, where it’s an ecological and cultural icon.

With fewer than 250 mature individuals, the rare birds are on the brink of extinction mainly due to the ongoing destruction of their forest habitat, which is also where the US Jungle Warfare Training Centre is located. Environmental experts have repeatedly pointed out that US military training exercises have accelerated environmental destruction – reflected by a sharp decrease in endangered animal populations throughout the forest.

The latest blow to the species is the clearing of prime woodpecker habitat for the construction of six helipads for the US military, which proceeded despite fierce protest from the locals.

What you can do

It’s amazing that you’ve taken the effort to know more about these animals. Here are some easy ways for wildlife conservation that can make a whole lot of difference:

  1. Practice and advocate the 3 Rs – Reduce, reuse and recycle things around you.
  2. Buy responsibly. Thrifting is a good way to start!
  3. Volunteer your time to organisations that support wildlife conservation. Pick up trash, create campaigns, join the fun!
  4. Visit your local zoos, aquariums and national parks and learn more about our planet’s species from experts.
  5. Donate to an accredited wildlife conservation organisations.


Get your digital copy of ASIAN Geographic-AG 03/2019 - 136 issue


Read about the 9 other critically endangered in the full feature “Red List” by Rachel Kwek in AG No. 136 03/2019 here or download a digital copy here! The latest issue is coming to shelves soon, look out for it or reserve your copy today by emailing


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