June 20, 2018, 4:06 p.m.View more articles
Endangered animals don’t always look beautiful, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need our help. Let’s look at some unusual ones!
Earlier this year, an animal conservation programme known as EDGE of Existence added a long list of endangered reptiles to its website. There are quite a few programmes dedicated to helping endangered animals, but EDGE of Existence is slightly different. The programme focuses its work entirely on very unusual endangered animals. Why? If these animals die out, then there won’t be anything else like them on Earth!
This is important work, because at the moment a lot of our attention goes to well-known endangered animals like tigers, elephants and pandas. But there are thousands of endangered animal species in the world. This week, we’ve been inspired to cover some of the more unusual animals we could find!
Let’s begin by meeting the axolotl (pronounced ACK-suh-lot-ull), an amphibian found in lakes near Mexico City. This little animal has a pretty special ability: it can regrow lost limbs! No matter how many times the axolotl loses a leg, it will always grow back fully. Many of an axolotl’s organs can also heal after being damaged. Imagine being able to regrow part of your heart! That’s a pretty useful skill!
Scientists haven’t found any wild axolotls in their natural habitat for several years. For a long time local people roasted and ate them as part of their diet. Human activity has also badly polluted the Mexican lakes where the axolotl lived. Humans also introduced a type of fish called a tilapia, which feeds on young axolotls. The axolotl struggled to survive in this dirty, dangerous environment, and now most axolotls live in laboratories or are kept as pets.
Let’s take a look at another amphibian: the pig-nosed frog, which lives in India. This curious-looking frog is unusual because it uses its long snout and its hard, spade-like hands to burrow into the ground. This frog spends almost its entire life underground!
The pig-nosed frog has a fascinating life cycle. The tadpoles hatch in small pools, then use their mouths to cling onto rocks in streams until they grow into adult frogs. That takes about four months! Once they’re fully grown, they drop off from the rock and burrow into the ground. They only return to the surface once a year when it rains, to lay their eggs.
Unfortunately, humans are destroying the pig-nosed frog’s habitat. The forests that the frogs live in are being cut down to make space for farmland. This is called deforestation. It’s very difficult to know how many pig-nosed frogs are left in the wild because they rarely come up to the surface. But scientists do know that if we continue to remove its habitat, the pig-nosed frog won’t survive for much longer.
Finally, let’s look at the eastern long-beaked echidna (pronounced eh-KID-nuh). This slow-moving mammal is only found on the island of New Guinea, north of Australia.
Almost all mammals give birth to live young. However, the eastern long-beaked echidna is a mammal that lays eggs! It lays a tiny egg in its pouch, which hatches about ten days later. The mother keeps the young echidna in her pouch for about six weeks, until its protective spines grow in. During this time the skin of the mother’s pouch produces milk for the baby to feed on and grow.
Once they reach adulthood, echidnas then survive on worms. Echidnas have no teeth, but they use their spiky tongues to slurp up and chew their food! Sadly, worms are becoming harder to find because of deforestation in New Guinea. The echidnas are also at risk from humans, who occasionally hunt them for food. If humans don’t stop removing their habitat, the eastern long-beaked echidna will be another animal that humans have forced into extinction.
This is only the beginning! There are thousands more animals that face dying out completely. Even worse, almost all of them are endangered because of human activity. Conservation programmes like EDGE of Existence aim to slow down some of the damage that humans have caused. We only have one Earth – we need to learn how to share it.
Watch The Oilmen and the Animals to learn about a huge oil company that tries hard to take care of the environment it works in.