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The 10 Most Wanted Creatures save the tiger

Speaking of Top Ten Lists, a recent publication of the World Wildlife Fund's Focus newsletter (Nov/Dec. 2004) listed the 10 Most Wanted Animals. As different species become more scarce, they become more in demand, for some strange reason. (There's that old law of supply and demand again.) So in addition to the forces of nature that are at work against certain species, there are additional foes: the people who like to "collect" endangered species for profit. They don't mind it that they have to pay high prices for these in-demand little animals, and as long as they are willing to shell out big bucks for these creatures, there will always be unscrupulous traders willing to hunt down, capture, smuggle and even kill them for the global marketplace. It's a truly disgusting form of enterprise, but one that flourishes without much in the way of law enforcement to control it.

Here's the WWF's 10 Most Wanted creatures as of December 2004:

1. The Tiger: perhaps there are less than 5,000 tigers left in the wild. Tiger "parts" are used in traditional Chinese medicine!
2. The Humphead Wrasse: a blue reef fish. Its large lips are a culinary delicacy in East Asia!
3. Great White Shark: Shark "parts" can be sold. You know, such things as teeth, jaws, skin and of course, fins -- for shark fin soup, which you can find on the Chinese food menu.
4. Ramin: surprise! This is a tree, not a creature, but nevertheless, this tropical hardwood is on the list trees to be saved, making it an in-demand product. Illegal logging is taking place so that pool cues, moldings, doors and picture frames can be manufactured. (Sound familiar? We cut down magnificent Redwood trees to turn them into fences and patio tables. Honestly!)
5. Pig-nosed Turtle: a giant freshwater turtle found in Papua NG, Indonesia and Australia. It's collectible as a pet. Turtles as pets? Go figure.
6. Yellow-Crested Cockatoo: there are fewer than 10,000 cockatoos left in the wild. Need I say more?
7. Asian Elephant: about 35,000 to 50,000 left. Threats include habitat loss, and of course, ivory and meat poaching.
8. Irrawaddy Dolphin: a rare dolphin that is threatened three ways: from fishing nets, of course, and it's being injured from explosives used in dynamite fishing, and since it is rare, it's also interesting to the aquarium trade (collectors again!).
9. Leaf-tailed Gecko: found only in Madagascar, they are threatened by habitat loss and since they are rare, the international pet traders are after them.
10: Asian Yew Trees: surprise again! Another tree, the Asians have not yet developed a synthetic cancer drug like the US has. The yew is harvested for the bark and needles for cancer therapy.

If you'd like to see the photos, go to the World Wildlife Fund's site. Check them out. They could use your support too.

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