These animals might be pretty cute, but they also might not be around much longer.
Today is also the feast day for Saint Francis of Assisi, who is known as the patron saint of animals. Catholic and Anglican churches around the world perform a blessing of the animals for pets and wild creatures alike.
This day carries a level of importance beyond any religious observance. Many species of wild animals are increasingly threatened and endangered. In fact, the U.S. endangered species list may soon grow by several hundred.
The Obama administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are currently working to "extend new federal protections to a list of imperiled animals and plants that reads like a manifest for Noah's Ark," according to the Associated Press.
Around the world, animal lovers are also recognizing the difficulties facing man's best friend. Activists in Venezuela are marching Tuesday in protest of a recent mass poisoning of stray dogs, reports Fox News Latino.
Regarding the Christian blessing of the animals and a similar Jewish ceremony, HuffPost blogger Jon M. Sweeney says, "In both the Christian ceremony performed in early October and in Jewish ceremonies later in the month, the message to those of us with animal companions is the same: take care of them as you would take care of yourself."
To learn how you can help animals in your own community, check out the ASPCA's website.
WATCH popular videos of threatened animals:
This might not be the sound you would expect to hear from one of the biggest cats in South America. But this little Jaguar cub was only just beginning to assert himself. The feisty feline was filmed suckling on a finger before letting out a surprising baby roar that is likely to be much more intimidating when he's older. On the IUCN Red List, the Jaguar is listed as a near threatened species due to habitat loss and persecution.
Meet Sid. In this video, she's an infant two-toed sloth who lives at the Bristol Zoo in the U.K. According to the zoo's website, Sid is "growing well" and enjoying a diet of milk and cooked vegetables. Green beans are her favorite. Sid is fed seven times per day and receives 24-hour care from zookeepers. She weighed just over a pound at her birth in April, but had quadrupled in weight by August. The zoo's website also explains that sloths like Sid are native to South America: "Habitat destruction and climate change are the biggest threats facing Linne's two-toed sloths. They are also hunted as food and for their claws and fur, which are used to make necklaces and saddlecloths."
This video of a precocious dancer comes from the San Diego Zoo. Their hippo, Adhama, was born in January weighing 100 pounds, according to the Daily Mail. The name Adhama means "honor" or "glory" in Swahili. Wild Hippos are not currently endangered, but are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
In this video from Yosemite National Park, two adorable bear cubs thought it would be a good idea to have their wrestling match in the middle of the road. Judging by the reactions of the human bystanders in the video, no one minded waiting for the bears to pass. Some bears are threatened. According to Reuters, grizzly bears are described as threatened in the Lower 48 states and are on the endangered species list.
In what may be one of the cutest animal videos around, a young tiger cub at a nature preserve loves playing with an older house cat. Tigers and house cats may not play together in the wild, but the two seem to be good friends -- at least while the tiger is still young. Unfortunately, many tigers in the wild are endangered. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are only about 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. Despite efforts by some governments, there is still a market for tiger parts and products, according to worldwildlife.org. The number of tigers is at an all-time low, with as little as 3,700 tigers in existence. The South China Tiger is thought to be functionally extinct, with 47 known animals living in zoos in China.
She may look like a zebra, but this okapi is most closely related to a giraffe. In this video, she is seen taking her first steps at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium. Her birth and first steps were an especially important event for the zoo, as wild okapis are currently listed as threatened.
Big cats deserve big toys. But forget any fancy toys, these big cats at Florida's Big Cat Rescue sanctuary are happy just playing with some oversized rubber tires. Without some serious protection, these big cats may not be around for much longer, as the mountain lion faces many different threats. By the 20th century, the lions, who were once found across the U.S., were wiped out from the Midwest and Eastern U.S., according to National Geographic. Leopards are also threatened, and the Amur leopard is one of the most endangered big cats in the world, with only about 35 Amur leopards left in the wild, according to amur-leopard.org.
In this BBC video, an acrobatic panda shows off his handstand abilities while he marks his territory. Sadly, giant pandas, which are native to China, are threatened with extinction. The Associated Press explains that this is due to a loss of habitat, poaching and poor breeding abilities. AFP reports that giant pandas may become extinct in two or three generations.
In this clip, a 3-month old gorilla nicknamed "Tiny" took his first wobbly steps at the London Zoo in February, according to the Today Show. Born last October, Tiny is the first gorilla to be born at the zoo in 20 years -- every birth is important, as gorillas are a threatened species. In the video, Tiny was already one foot tall, and in need of a new name. Another British Zoo, in Bristol, recently welcomed a newborn western lowland gorilla. According to The Sun, there are only 150,000 to 200,000 western mountain gorillas left in the wild.
Check out this slideshow of threatened species: