The yellow-spotted river turtle is one of the largest turtles in the Amazon, weighing up to 8 kilograms. As such, it has a long history of being hunted by man, a legacy which continues today. Promisingly, conservation efforts in local communities are promoting sustainable harvesting techniques for these turtles.
Four species of Pangolin occur in Africa and four in Asia—all are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. It is a common bushmeat in Africa and a delicacy in China, where the scales are used to treat asthma and spirit possession in traditional medicine.
The orange roughy is a long-lived deep-water fish species. Under its previous common name, “slimehead” it remained virtually un-targeted by humans. Once its name was changed, however, it became a commercially exploited species by fisheries. Their long life cycle means their populations do not bounce back as quickly as other exploited fish species.
Manatees have long been hunted for their meat, fat, and hides. They were commonly hunted by Native Americans around the coasts of Florida prior to a ban in 1893 but in South America, Africa, and Asia they are still targeted for their large quantities of meat.
The lowland tapir is one of four tapir species threatened with extinction. Indigenous communities throughout the Amazon rainforest have relied on tapir as an important food source, but growing human populations and habitat loss from logging have led to a decline in their population. A little-known fact is that their skin is illegally traded internationally with, products often being found for sale in Italy.
Guenons are one of the most commonly hunted animals in African for human consumption. More than 25 species of Guenon monkeys are known,but many more may exist in isolated forest fragments. Most primate species in Africa, including chimpanzees and gorillas, are hunted for human consumption.
Curassows are a group of birds native to Central and South America. Many species are now rare with hunting and habitat loss causing declines. When disturbed, they will fly up to a perch between three and four metres high to assess the threat—they are then an easy target.
Chinese giant salamander
Reaching lengths of 1.8 metres, the critically endangered Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian in the world, and it’s capable of regenerating body parts. In China they’re considered a delicacy and used in medicines.
Overfishing has severely depleted populations of all three bluefin species, but the endangered Atlantic bluefin is most at risk from demand for its meat in high-end sushi markets.
Humans have hunted elephants since our ancestral coexistence with these beasts first began—we ate the European elephant to extinction 50,000 years ago. Nowadays, elephant meat is considered a delicacy and fetches a high price in many African countries. Experts are concerned that demand for their meat may now be equal to the demand for their ivory.
Around 2 million years ago our ancestors first began the act of purposefully hunting and killing animals in the grasslands of Africa for food. Coincidentally, the fossil record shows that it was around this time that our brains and bodies grew in size—quite possibly fuelled by our new diet—and it wasn’t long (evolutionarily speaking) before we left Africa. As our population grew and we spread out across the continents, evidence suggests that our arrival also led to many species of the Pleistocene era being hunted to extinction, most famously the legendary wooly mammoth.
Nowadays we are much more selective about what prey we consume—moreover we are now making conscious efforts to protect many species from extinction. Nonetheless, a large proportion of our burgeoning population of 7 billion still relies on a wild animal prey base—one that is depleting ever more rapidly, and pushing many species towards exhaustion. Here are just 10 animals out of countless hundreds that are still being eaten to extinction in the 21st century.