Biologically rich rainforests in Africa, the Americas and Asia contain more than half of all the world's animals and they provide more than one-third of the earth's oxygen. Despite this, they are disappearing fast due to human invasion, and have been reduced to covering from 14 percent to just six percent of the world. Poverty-stricken people increasingly move onto the land because they have no other options, and large corporations such as Mitsubishi, Georgia Pacific, Texaco, and others, have utilized rainforests for years for farming, ranching and timber operations. Unfortunately, because most of the forests' nutrients are locked up in the roots of the giant trees that populate them, when they are cut down and bulldozed, they regenerate slowly if at all. This is a problem for the animals that live in these forests. Scientists have estimated that the 50,000 species of animals, plants, and insects are lost each year. Some of the most endangered species are listed below.
Mantled Howler Monkeys
The mantled howler monkey population has diminished to fewer than 12,000 individuals, most of which reside in Central and South America. Because they play a key role in dispersing seeds in their dung, they are considered important to forest regeneration. Unfortunately, habitat destruction and fragmentation, disease, genetic inbreeding and natural disasters have led it to be considered critically endangered in Mexico. However, measures are being taken to protect them. They are protected from international trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and new reserves are being proposed to preserve habitat. These monkeys are black with golden-fringed flanks, weigh up to 20 lbs., are vegetarians and have long, prehensile tails with which they move around their homes in treetops.
Found mostly in Central and South American rainforests, the Western Hemisphere's largest cats---jaguars---are elusive creatures. Despite this, they have been hunted so severely and their habitat so depleted that they are considered endangered. Not only is their fur coveted, but ranchers kill them because they eat cattle and sheep. However, the Federal Endangered Species Act prohibits any trade in the fur from this animal, and most countries prohibit hunting in almost all of the jaguar's range. These large cats are typically tan with black rings and spots. They weigh between 150 and 300 lbs., are 5- to 8.5-feet long and they primarily eat meat. Attacks on humans are rare.These large cats are typically tan with black rings and spots. They weigh between 150 and 300 pounds, are 5- to 8.5-feet long, and they primarily eat meet. Attacks on humans are rare.
South and Central American rainforests used to be filled with a plethora of wildly colored, large-billed toucans. At nearly 8 inches long, the toucan's bill looks powerful and may deter predators, but isn't actually very strong. However, it serves as an excellent feeding tool because it gives the toucan a bit of extra reach on fragile branches that are too small to support its body weight. The birds have a unique mating ritual during which they throw food to one another. Unfortunately, because these birds are coveted worldwide as pets, they are captured and taken out of their natural terrain. Additionally, their habitat has been severely reduced by humans, and they have very few young. Thus, the 40 different species of this bird have become increasingly rare.