By Sammy Caiola
Native Foods Cafe
Earlier this month, Rusty the Red Panda- an adorable copper-colored, wet-nosed rascal- escaped from the National Park Zoo and wandered the streets of Washington DC, drawing the entire nation’s attention in news outlets and social media alike. People everywhere stopped their day-to-day routines to check in on Rusty, which is kind of an anomaly considering how fast the world moves these days.
Native foods Cafe vegan restaurant uses this photo courtesy of Fox News.
Rusty’s escape does help to bring the issue of endangered animals to the public eye- as Rusty was one of less than 10,000 of his kind still on the planet. But the reality is there are animals out there who are far more endangered and get far less attention. Today, using information gathered from PETA, the World Wildlife Foundation and National Geographic, I’d like to introduce you to a few endangered species who you might not be paying attention to.
Saola: Discovered just 20 years ago, the saola (pronounced sow-la) is still a bit of a mystery to science, but there’s no question about the need to keep it alive. It has two parallel 20-inch horns and beautiful facial markings, causing some to call it the “Asian unicorn”. Though its current population is unknown (there aren’t even any in captivity), they have been spotted (and hunted!) in Vietnam and Laos. Can you believe people are actually killing these rare beauties?
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of the World Wildlife Foundation.
Northern Sportive Lemur: Unfortunately, this buggy-eyed guy is one of about 100 species of Madagascar-native lemurs whose populations are falling far too quickly, mostly due to forest logging and illegal hunting. The most recent report says there are only 20 of these little cats left (they weigh less than two pounds each), so protecting them is crucial.
Native Foods uses this photo courtesy of The Telegraph.
Little Dodo bird: Though the normal-sized dodo bird went extinct a few years back, there’s still time to help out its little cousin. Just a few hundred of these birds still reside on the islands of Samoa but are dwindling quickly due to habitat loss.
Native Foods Café uses this image courtesy of samoanbirds.com
Mekong giant catfish: The ever-growing demand for seafood has put this 600-pound sea-dweller in rough waters. While they once thrived in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, their population is down to just a few hundred, some of whom are protected. Their biggest threat is illegal fishing. I can’t even find a photo of this creature in its natural habitat- only flopping in some fisherman’s arms or splayed out on a kill deck.
African Wild Dog: These furry friends don’t look all that different from our companions at home, but they don’t enjoy anywhere near that much love and protection. There are a few thousand left in South American and East Africa, but targeted killings and the claiming of land for agriculture will bring that number down soon enough.
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of the World Wildlife Foundation
How Can We Help?
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to help these vulnerable animals. The World Wildlife Foundation has a famous “symbolic adoption” program, whereby you choose an endangered species to help and they send you pictures and plush toys of “your animal”, though you really are helping the organization to save many animals. This is a great option for kids, who will love naming and connecting with their own endangered animal.
On a more tangible level, there are a number of products you can purchase whose proceeds go partially toward protecting endangered species:
Endangered Species Chocolate: This fair trade company sells delicious shade-grown chocolate and donates 10% of proceeds to conservation efforts. PLUS there are pictures and info about endangered species on every wrap. The dark varieties are vegan and can be purchased in pouches for $3.29
Avon Hello Green Tomorrow Reusable Water Bottle: 100% of proceeds from this $2.50 water ball go to the World Wildlife Foundation’s restoration efforts in Indonesia.
Build-a-Bear Donation Animals: Head into Build-A-Bear Workshop with your little one and have them stuff and dress their very own endangered animal to take home. $1 from each stuffed animal goes to the World Wildlife Fund.
Don’t forget that there are hundreds of endangered animals beyond the ones mentioned here, including the big guys like Bornean elephants, Sumatran tigers, giant pandas, polar bears, lowland gorillas, dolphins and leatherback turtles. If we stay informed and spread the word about these suffering animals, we can work to get the endangered populations to a healthy, happy place.
Native Foods Cafe, vegan, vegan restaurant, vegan food, endangered species