(image via EcoTourism Blog)
Endangered animals often end up as food for humans for reasons such as cultural convention, traditional medicine, economic need, or pure arrogance. While recent reports of people consuming near-extinct species are alarming, this list of commonly eaten endangered species around the world puts those cases in perspective.
Chinese Giant Salamander
Amphibians as a whole are already on their way towards extinction, but at least they’re not generally found on dinner plates. Unfortunately for the Chinese Giant Salamander, which is the largest amphibian in the world, it is a delicacy in China and the target of illegal hunting.
Chimpanzees & Gorillas
(images via All Creatures, ZSL and Planetsave)
The consumption of bushmeat, often originating from great apes like chimpanzees and mountain gorillas, is a cultural tradition in parts of Africa and it is not viewed as a problem. The species are also suffering a population decline due to deforestation and habitat loss.
(images via Wikipedia, UW News and Oregon Live)
Chinook salmon, found exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, have been on the steady decline for years due to damming of rivers, pollution and over-fishing. While commercial fishing in some areas is subject to annual approval, officials kill sea lions — natural predators of salmon — in order to allow more salmon stocks for fishing in the Columbia River.
(images via Greenpeace and Doctor Weighs In)
When an endangered species swims under the sea, people tend not to give as much pause before taking a bite. Bluefin tuna is a favorite for sushi in Japan, and despite its incredibly endangered status, is still commercially harvested and sold.
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Caribou populations across North America vary from burgeoning to sparse, but despite protection, the rare populations are still hunted. For instance, the Innu in Quebec hunt the animals from snowmobiles and will slaughter entire herds.
(images via Biotechnology Learning Hub and Green Diary)
The Japanese whaling fleet claims to kill whales for research, yet not a single study has been published based on their annual hunt. In addition to hundreds of Minke whales, the ships slaughter a few dozen endangered Fin whales every year, which inevitably end up in cans on store shelves.
African Forest Elephants
(image via Daylife)
Elephants are famously poached for their ivory, but forest elephants — the most at-risk elephant species in the world — are also hunted for their flesh. The animals weigh over 5,000 pounds but only yield 1,000 pounds of meat. Combined with the ivory, one elephant kill can land a poacher thousands of dollars.
Green Sea Turtles
(images via Quest Connect and Permanente Journal)
Green sea turtles are hunted for their shells, leather, flesh and fat. Their eggs and meat used to be a delicacy in Hawaii before the Endangered Species Act granted them protection in 1977. However, the turtles are still hunted in Indonesia and other countries in South Asia.
(images via Conserve Nature and Thinking Out Loud)
Freshwater dolphins — found in the Ganges, Indus and Amazon rivers — suffer from naturally low populations, so the impact of pollution and hunting has been drastic. A species in the Yangtze river was driven to extinction in 2006, the first mammal to go extinct in 50 years.
(images via United Nations Vietnam, gotouring.com and kgudi.com)
The gaur, a wild relative to the cow, is a threatened species found in South Asia. While domesticated gaurs called gayals are common, the wild herds are still hunted for their meat. The animals have few predators other than tigers, which they’ve been known to fight off and kill.
(images via Shark-Pictures.com and Planetsave)
The Ganges Shark is hunted from the river’s muddy waters for its nutrient-rich oil. Dozens of other species across the world are becoming endangered from the practice of shark finning, where fisherman slice off the fins of live sharks before tossing the animals back into the water to drown. The fins are dried and used to make soup in Asian restaurants.