The most valuable ecosystems on the planet are being lost at a rate of 1.5 acres per second, and with them, countless plant and animal species. More than 50,000 species go extinct every year, including plants that are used for medical purposes. Animals are being hit particularly hard, mostly due to deforestation and encroaching human development. The list of endangered species grows every day.
The Amazon rain forest is the largest on earth, with about 6 million square miles, and it's not surprising that it also has the largest number of endangered animals. As of 2009, the list is in the hundreds. Some of the larger animals that are key to keeping the environment healthy are the apex predators, such as the jaguar and the ocelot. Smaller mammals are also critically endangered, and monkey species top the list. The brown headed spider monkey, the Colombian woolly monkey and the buffy-headed capuchin are among some of the many that span nearly the entire continent.
Because of logging and political unrest in many African countries, the rain forests of central Africa are disappearing at an alarming rate--and with them, many animal species. The gray parrot is captured and exported as pets almost as quickly as their habitat is being lost. The mandrill and the chimpanzee are both endangered. Perhaps the most well known endangered species is the gorilla. These spectacular primates are illegally hunted for their meat, known as bush meat, and their body parts are sold abroad. Numerous international groups are working diligently to prevent more destruction.
Temperate Rain Forests
Temperate, or mild-climate, rain forests, are home to many endangered species of plants and animals. In the temperate rain forests of North America, many of the large animals, such as the red wolf, elk, bison and caribou, have been reduced to 10 percent of their original populations due to over-hunting and habitat loss. In the Southern Hemisphere, Tasmania's bird population is particularly threatened. The orange-bellied parrot, the grey goshawk and the scrubwren have lost much of their nesting areas, making it difficult for the species to continue without intervention.