By OurAmazingPlanet Staff:

Some of Asia's most magnificent animals are at a crossroads and may not survive if steps aren't taken to save them, an environmental group announced today (Sept. 5) at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea.

The Wildlife Conservation Society released a list of animals in danger of extinction, including tigers, orangutans, Mekong giant catfish, Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles and Asian vultures.


The group said the problem could be solved by following the "Three R's Approach":  recognition, responsibility and recovery.

A good example of a species saved from the brink is the American bison. In this case the iconic animal's imminent demise was recognized, responsibility for its survival was taken by conservationists and politicians, and it has recovered somewhat.

But if this approach isn't followed, Asian animals on the list could go the way of the American passenger pigeon, and die off, the WCS warned.

Each Asian species on the list faces daunting challenges from a variety of factors including habitat loss and illegal hunting and trade. Nevertheless, the group said it believed that Asian governments have the ability and financial means to prevent these species from going extinct.

The tiger may be going the way of the bison, since India has taken some steps to protect it and encourage its recovery. Orangutans face a bleaker future, with widespread conversion of its habitat into palm oil plantations reducing wild populations. Asian rhinos and giant river turtles face relentless poaching in the illegal wildlife trade, while Asian vultures have been nearly wiped out due to poisoning. Mekong giant catfish numbers have also plummeted due to overfishing.

The WCS warned that time is running out. Two large mammal species in Asia have recently gone extinct, including the kouprey, a type of wild cattle once found in Southeast Asia, and the baiji, a species of Chinese freshwater dolphin.

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All photos and captions below courtesy of The Wildlife Conservation Society.

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  • Orangutan

    © Eleanor Briggs Thousands of years ago, ranged from China through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. Now just restricted to parts of Sumatra and Borneo. Most populations of both species are located outside protected areas, in forests that are exploited for timber production or being converted to agriculture. Bornean orangutan - 50 percent decline during the last 60 years, as a result of habitat loss due to conversion of forest to agriculture and fires. Between 45,000 and 69,000 individuals remain. Habitat loss, poaching, and the pet-trade are major threats across Borneo. Sumatran orangutan - 80 percent decline over the last 75 years; approximately 7,300 individuals remain. Most remaining populations are in Aceh Province. Pressure on forests is increasing as a result of the recent peace accord, and a dramatic increase in demand for timber and other natural resources after the December, 2004 tsunami.

  • Baiji

    © Stephen Leatherwood Extinct: A freshwater dolphin called a Baiji

  • Mekong Giant Catfish

    ©WCS Endemic to the Mekong basin. Local fisheries began to report the disappearance of this fish in the 1970s. Current population size is unknown, but a decline of more than 80 percent since 1990 can be estimated from past annual catch records. Fishing effort in the Mekong basin is increasing, and the loss of migratory routes through the construction of dams may also have a negative impact on fish abundance in the river.

  • Asian Rhinos

    © Dennis deMello/WCS Three species, all suffered from dramatic population declines and range shrinkages. Greater one-horned rhino - well protected in some parts of India, but 70 percent of population in one National ParkP (Kaziranga), and remaining populations fragmented, some declining. Sumatran rhino - once widespread throughout Southeast Asia, now only remaining in Sabah and few fragmented parts of Indonesia, with a total of probably only about 250 animals remaining in the wild. Javan rhino - again, once widespread across Southeast Asia, but by 2000, limited to two wild populations, one each in Vietnam and Java. Last year, Vietnam population declared extinct. So now just one population remaining, in Ujong Kulong, possibly numbering only about 40 animals.

  • Tiger

    © Julie Larsen Maher/WCS Only about 3,200 remaining, and of those, only about 1,000 breeding females. Occupy only 7 percent of their historic range, and 70 percent of the remaining population is in 6 percent of the current range. But we know what to do to save them. In areas with good habitat, with tigers and prey protected effectively against poachers, populations are recovering. Example: Nagarahole National Park in India.

  • Batagur Turtles

    ©WCS Group of turtles closest to extinction. Heavily harvested and exploited for flesh and eggs. Five species are critically endangered and one is endangered. So few individuals remain in some cases that assurance colonies are the only hope for species survival. Batagur baska - Northern River Terrapin - Previously highly abundant in river deltas of India and Myanmar. Now, no known nesting areas, and only a few individuals remain in the wild. Concerted effort is needed to bring captive individuals together for breeding groups. B. trivittata - Burmese Roofed Turtle - Considered extinct from 1930s to 2002 when remnant populations were discovered. Only 5-7 breeding adult females in the wild. Almost 400 hatchlings have been transferred to headstarting facilities. Plans for release of 5-year old headstarted males. B. affinis - Southern River Terrapin - Previously considered one species with B. baska. Only isolated populations remain, but poaching of turtles and eggs still occurs. Conservation projects have only been able to secure hatchlings and adult mortality has not yet been effectively addressed. B. kachuga - Red-crowned Roofed Turtle - Exists primarily along the Chambal River in central India, with isolated populations in Bangladesh. Approximately 500 adult females remain. Breeding programs have produced over 4000 hatchlings. B. borneoensis - Painted Terrapin - Global status not fully elucidated; most populations in serious decline. Suffered from uncoordinated conservation efforts. 200 head-started ndividuals have been released, but all rivers with viable populations have not been identified.

  • Asian Vultures

    ©WCS Declined by more than 90 percent across the Indian subcontinent. Direct killing account for 10 percent of recorded vulture deaths, but the main cause of mortality has been diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used for veterinary reasons in cattle that is toxic to vultures when the carcass is consumed. Populations remain stable in Cambodia where the government has placed restrictions on the use of diclofenac. Critically Endangered Species: Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)

  • Kouprey

    ©WCS Extinct: The Kouprey - a mysterious species of wild cattle