● A new survey has revealed Britain’s knowledge gap when it comes to the planet’s rarest and most vulnerable animals
● The giant panda and African elephant take the most votes, as voters mistake these vulnerable animals for critically endangered species
● Many Brits fail to identify species such as the western lowland gorilla and the orangutan as critically endangered
A new survey has revealed what Brits don’t know about the most endangered animal species on Earth.
10,000 people in the UK 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.
Days after 38-year-old Jia Jia, the world’s oldest giant panda, was euthanised at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, over half of Brits 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 4th September this year and is now considered vulnerable.
49% of voters 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.
Taking 46% of the overall vote, and an incredible 83% of the North East vote, the vulnerable polar bear proved the fourth most popular answer.
As climate change threatens the polar bear’s sea ice habitat, organisations like WWF are making the protection of this species a key concern.
As a supporter of Save the Rhino International, a charity dedicated to helping all five rhino species continue to thrive in the wild, Mahlatini has partnered with the non-profit organisation to support these crucial conservation efforts.
With numbers now below 5,000, the black rhino came third in the survey – as 49% of respondents correctly identified the animal as being critically endangered.
The western lowland gorilla, another critically endangered species to which Cincinnati Zoo’s Harambe belonged, took 42% of the overall vote and two thirds of the Yorkshire 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.
Sharing 96.4% of our genes, orangutans are another critically endangered species – as 31% of Brits appear to know – with just 31,000 Bornean and around 7,500 Sumatran orangutans left on Earth.
Reds, whites and blues
Other species featured in the survey included the red squirrel (32%), the great white shark (29%) and the Seychelles blue pigeon (19%).
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
35% of all respondents, and over half of 55-64 year olds, declared the sea turtle a critically endangered animal – while a fifth of Brits 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 meal and oil, sea-dwelling mammal the dugong came last in the survey, with just 18% of participants mistaking the vulnerable cousin of the manatee for a critically endangered species.
Gregory Fox, Director at Mahlatini Luxury Travel, said: “It’s a shame to see that so many people are still unaware of the threats facing some of the world’s most rare and fascinating creatures.
“These results suggest we may still have some way to go in terms of increasing awareness of the world’s critically endangered species and, in turn, highlighting the actions that should be taken to protect these dying breeds.”
To find out more about endangered, vulnerable and threatened animal species across the globe, visit worldwildlife.org.
Respondents were able to select multiple answers to the following question:
Which of the following species do you think are critically endangered?
● Giant panda (vulnerable): 50.2%
● African elephant (vulnerable): 48.8%
● Black rhino (critically endangered): 48.5%
● Polar bear (vulnerable): 45.9%
● Western lowland gorilla (critically endangered): 41.5%
● Orangutan (critically endangered): 30.8%
● Sea turtle (vulnerable): 35.1%
● Red squirrel (least concern): 32.4%
● Great white shark (vulnerable): 28.9%
● Cape buffalo (least concern): 19.6%
● Seychelles blue pigeon (least concern): 18.6%
● Dugong (vulnerable): 18.1%
Mahlatini Luxury Travel provides tailor-made safari experiences, covering all established and emerging destinations across Southern and Eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands and Arabia.
This data was gathered in October 2016 and includes responses from 10,000 people in the UK.
For images or additional data, or to discuss any aspect of these results in more detail, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay Connelly | Mahlatini
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