Endangered species of South Africa include everything from the gigantic hippopotamus to the miniscule white-tailed mouse. The last century has been a disaster in terms of wildlife loss, with poaching and loss of habitat being the prime culprits, but efforts are in place to protect these beautiful creatures. The following is a list of ten animals that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature IUCN classifies as either critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.
1. Riverine Rabbit
Also known as the bushman rabbit, the riverine rabbit is critically endangered and is one of the rarest animals on the planet. Along with a characteristic bushy tail, it’s also got an interesting diet, feeding on boegoe and ink bushes. Around half of its habitat has been destroyed in the past 70 years, and the current population is estimated to be less than 250 breeding pairs. These rabbits are currently only found in the Karoo Desert in Cape Province, and the probability of extinction is projected to be over 50% in the next 100 years.
2. De Winton’s Golden Mole
This particular mole is considered critically endangered and possibly already extinct. Ranging in size from 8 to 20 cm, this small creature spends the majority of its time underground and thus is rarely seen by conservationists. The only recorded sightings in the last 50 years have been at Port Nolloth, Northern Cape Province.
3. Pickergill’s Reedfrog
Regrettably, this critically endangered frog is now only found by the coast of KwaZulu-Natal province in an area smaller than 10 sq km. Habitat change, including the use of DDT and the spread of eucalyptus, have contributed to its decline. It is believed that less than 1% of the reedfrogs live within protected areas, therefore, actions towards saving them is urgent.
4. African Wild Dog
Also known as the Cape hunting dog and the painted dog, the African wild dog is a member of the canid family and is only found in Africa. These dogs were once abundant throughout the continent, with a population of around 500,000. Currently, there are only around 3,000-5,000 left in scattered areas of southern, eastern and central African woodlands and savannas.
A member of the antelope family and once considered a pest, the bontebok was hunted to near-extinction (just 22 animals) in the 1830s. Since then, the population has increased through human conservation efforts. Their numbers are still low however, and the species remains on the endangered list. The bontebok now has its own protected habitat, South Africa’s Bontebok National Park.
6. White-tailed Rat
Weighing in at slightly over 100g, these tiny creatures only live in parts of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. They are strictly a nocturnal animal and tend to inhabit the burrows of meerkats. Humans have encroached on their natural habitat (montane grasslands) through urbanization, yet owls remain their biggest predators. Currently, white-tailed rats are on the endangered list.
The hippo is the third-largest land mammal in the world and shares a common ancestor with the whale. Despite being on the plump side, they can outrun numerous animals, including humans. Unfortunately, their ivory teeth keep them on the list of favorite animals for poachers. Their decline in population is not recent, in fact, they have been hunted by humans for over 1,000 years. At least three of their ancestors have become extinct over the millenia. Hippos are currently classified as endangered.
8. Mountain Zebra
As their name implies, these zebras are generally found near mountain slopes, woodlands, and other areas with adequate vegetation for them to feed on. Sometimes they can be found above 3000 feet. The animal is currently classified as vulnerable and has experienced loss of habitat through agricultural practices. They are also poached for both their skin and meat. During the 1930s, the species was hunted down to a population of under 100, but thankfully their numbers have since climbed to close to 3,000 in the wild.
9. Long-tailed Forest Shrew
This cute animal is currently on the vulnerable list and lives throughout the shrubby vegetation of South Africa. They are vulnerable as prey to the barn owl, African weasel, and similar creatures. They were first noted by scientists in Port Elizabeth in 1832.
10. Black-footed cat
Rounding out our list is the smallest cat in Africa, the black-footed cat. The animal gets its name from the black pads on the undersides of its feet. These cats tend to like living in the open savanna, but they are rarely seen, as they are completely nocturnal. Fortunately, hunting is currently banned, and the cat has been on the vulnerable list since 2002.