With human populations increasing worldwide and consumers demanding rare and exotic meals, endangered animals are being hunted for food at an increasingly alarming rate. Due to such a diverse international culture and rich tastes, the United States is one of the largest consumers of wildlife, with mass amounts of it illegally smuggled into the country every year.
Take a look at 7 animals that are threatened with extinction if humans don't stop eating them--you might be surprised at what you find!
The pangolin is a family of 8 species, also known as the scaly anteater, native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. Large keratin scales cover its skin—a mammal adaptation unique to the pangolin. Unfortunately, the pangolin's existence is threatened due to heavy consumption primarily in Africa, China, and Indonesia, where not only is the meat considered a delicacy but the pangolin serves as a source for many herbal medicines. The IUCN Red List has classified two species of Pangolin as endangered, with four more listed as near threatened.
The entire frog population is being threatened from global trade in frog legs. While definite numbers are hard to track, at least 200 million frogs are consumed every year, though it's possible that the actual number exceeds over a billion. The Giant Ditch Frog, also known as "Mountain Chicken" for its meat, is an example of a specific species that has been eaten to the point of now being critically endangered.
Monkeys and Apes
"Bush meat", or meat from wild animals, is a primary source of protein for many people around the world, especially in Africa. Many international markets also consider the wild meat a delicacy. Hunting of various primates, chimpanzees and gorillas among them, has risen considerably due to increased malnutrition in local human populations and the global demand. More than 3.4 million metric tons of this meat is removed yearly from the Congo Basin alone—a 500 million acre region. One known species of monkey has already gone extinct from consumption, and over 300 of the 634 primate species currently face the same fate.
Both freshwater and sea turtles have long been hunted for food and use in traditional medicines. As many as 10,000 tons of freshwater turtles are traded for consumption each year in Southeast Asia—a region where more than half the species are endangered. Turtle eggs, obviously essential to the survival of the animal, are consumed regularly. Around 422,000 turtle eggs were traded in Terengganu, Malaysia in 2007, a trade volume that more than twice exceeds the number of green turtle nestings in the area.
Though elephants are traditionally known as being hunted for their ivory, many more are now being hunted for their meat. With drastic increases in human population, Africans are finding elephants much more valuable as food, especially with some in the cities considering the meat a delicacy. A single forest elephant in the Congo Basin may earn the seller only $180 for its tusks, but can net around $6,000 for its meat.
Bluefin tuna is one of the most over fished species in the ocean, and its population has decreased by 80% in the last 40 years as a result. Recent efforts to ban the international trade of the critically endangered species failed. One analysis predicts that at the current rate of consumption, Mediterranean bluefin tuna will be extinct by 2012.
Chinese Giant Salamander
The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest living amphibian, able to reach up to 6 feet in length. The species is considered critically endangered, as hunting for their meat (considered a delicacy) combined with habitat destruction has led to an 80% decrease in their population since the 1960s.