Despite being discovered as recently as May 1992, the saola is already on the critically endangered list. Also sometimes called the Asian unicorn because it’s so rare, the saola is a relative of the goat and cow and native to the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos. Hunters are a huge threat to this species as they are often accidentally struck while the hunters are in pursuit of other prey in the area. Agricultural changes and infrastructure development along the Laos/Vietnam border are also enormous threats to the saola population.
4 Seychelles Sheath-Tailed Bat
Native to the Seychelles, an archipelago of small islands in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar, the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat is nearing extinction. With a population of less than 100, this bat has already been wiped out on several of the islands in the Seychelles, with Mahe and Silhouette being the only islands where this species remain. Experts believe habitat destruction along with invasive species are the cause of the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat’s diminishing population.
3 Red River Giant Softshell Turtle
Not only is the Red River giant softshell turtle one of the largest turtles around, it is also the most rare and most endangered of the species. Native to China and Vietnam, there are only four Red River giant softshell turtles still in existence. One is in Hoan Kiem Lake, located in downtown Hanoi in Vietnam. Revered as a symbol of Vietnam’s independence, this turtle is called Kim Qui, also known as the Golden Turtle God. The remaining Red River giant softshell turtles are located in zoos. Both hunting and destruction of the turtle’s natural habitat have caused the near-demise of this species.
2 Liben Lark
It is becoming increasingly possible that the Liben lark, found only in the plains of southern Ethiopia, may become Africa’s first on-record native bird extinction. With a population of fewer than 250, this bird’s dwindling population is due, in large part, to the area’s agricultural expansion, which has severely degraded the bird’s habitat. In just two years’ time, between 2007 and 2009, the Liben lark’s population dropped by a drastic 40 percent. If this continues, it is estimated the bird will be extinct within two to three years.
1 Javan Rhino
Out of the five species of rhino, the Javan rhino is the most threatened. Once prominent throughout Southeast Asia, this large mammal can now only be found in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, where there are roughly only 35 still living. The Javan rhino has already become extinct in Vietnam; the country’s last Javan rhino was poached in 2010. Despite being legally protected, the Javan rhino is still at risk. Used in traditional Asian medicine, some believe—without scientific basis—that its horn can cure various ailments, including cancer.