The third Friday in May is Endangered Species Day, a chance to celebrate, learn about and take action to protect threatened and endangered species. This Global Day of Action was created and founded by David Robinson and the Endangered Species Coalition in 2006 and has continued to grow in scope and momentum since.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. This landmark piece of legislation, signed into law in the U.S. in 1973, institutionalized the country’s national commitment to protecting endangered plants and animals and their habitats.
How You Can Help Protect Endangered Animals
With the current biodiversity crisis—and an estimated one million species at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution and poaching—it’s more important than ever to get involved.
“One of the best ways to keep the momentum going and growing on this movement to protect at-risk species is to engage as many people as possible,” says Court Whelan, Natural Habitat Adventures’ Chief Sustainability Officer. “And travel is a great way to achieve that.”
“As we always say here at Nat Hab, you cannot save what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know,” Court says. “People need to visit, see and learn about wildlife if they are going to advocate for a species’ survival.”
Discover 10 endangered species and the places you can see them for yourself with Nat Hab, the world’s leading nature and wildlife travel company.
1. African Elephants in Botswana
Strong and smart—but also vulnerable—African elephants are the world’s largest land mammals. Sadly, their numbers have suffered greatly from the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss and fragmentation, and human-elephant conflict. Botswana hosts the largest populations of these incredible creatures, with some 130,000 elephants within its borders.
Where to see them: Our 12-day Secluded Botswana Safari—Nat Hab’s flagship safari—offers a truly exclusive adventure into the heart of Africa’s wilderness. We also have a variety of other Botswana-based itineraries that get you close to vast elephant herds, including our Southern Africa Riverboat Safari, Botswana Explorer, Epic Botswana & Namibia Safari and green season Botswana: Kalahari, the Delta & Beyond trips.
2. Orangutans in Borneo
Known for their distinctive red fur, orangutans are the largest arboreal mammals, spending most of their time in trees. They also share almost 97% of our DNA! Unfortunately, these highly intelligent creatures are easy targets for hunters because of their large size and slow speed. They are also the victims of habitat loss as swaths of forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations and timber and mining resource extraction.
Where to see them: On Nat Hab’s 12-day The Wilds of Borneo: Orangutans & Beyond itinerary, travelers go in search of rare and threatened wildlife in the world’s oldest rain forests.
3. Tigers in India
A rare bright spot in the fight to save endangered species, after a century of decline, overall wild tiger numbers are starting to grow. Populations are stable or increasing in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, and China. This promising change is the result of strategic, long-term efforts by countries to increase protections for tigers, engage local communities as leaders and partners in conservation, restore wildlife corridors, and boost local resources. Through cooperation and collaboration, these countries hope to secure a future where tigers and people can co-exist.
Where to see them: Nat Hab offers three India trips where travelers have the opportunity to view Bengal tigers. Our 12-day Grand India Wildlife Adventure is a comprehensive journey to visit three national parks. The seven-day India Tiger Quest is a more singular, tiger-intensive itinerary through Ranthambore National Park. And our 11-day India Tiger Safari: A Photo Pro Expedition is designed for accomplished photographers hoping to capture iconic shots of these stunning big cats.
4. Galapagos Penguins in the Galapagos Islands
The only species of penguin found north of the equator, these flightless birds number fewer than 2,000 individuals in the wild today. Galapagos penguins are threatened by pollution, bycatch and climate change.
5. Monarch Butterflies in Mexico
Monarch butterflies are known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek means “sleepy transformation.” The name evokes the species’ ability to hibernate and metamorphize.
Urban sprawl and agricultural expansion have had a devastating effect on monarchs, as millions of acres of milkweed (the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs and the only food source for baby caterpillars) have been plowed and paved. But climate change poses the biggest threat, as it disrupts annual migration patterns by affecting weather conditions in both of the monarch’s winter and summer breeding grounds.
Where to see them: Nat Hab’s six-day Kingdom of the Monarchs tour offers the opportunity to witness one of the world’s most astounding wildlife events in the forested Central Highlands of Mexico. On foot and horseback, travelers enter remote fir forests where millions of monarchs roost and breed every winter. You get so close—and there are so many—you can hear the hum of their wings as tens of thousands take flight at once!
6. Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Seven different species of sea turtle call the world’s oceans home. But for how much longer? Unfortunately, heir existence is threatened by overharvesting and the illegal meat trade, habitat loss, bycatch in commercial fishing gear, pollution and climate change.
Where to see them: Look for green sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park on Nat Hab’s 10-day, all-encompassing Natural Jewels of Costa Rica nature expedition or on our eight-day Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer, where travelers have the chance to witness the release of sea turtle hatchlings on the beach.
Learn more about sea turtles from our conservation partner, World Wildlife Fund.
7. Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
Just a couple of decades ago, the outlook for the survival of this subspecies of eastern gorilla was bleak. Although ongoing civil unrest in the region, poaching, disease and an encroaching human population still pose threats, the mountain gorilla’s prospects have brightened in recent years thanks to conservation efforts.
Where to see them: Nat Hab hosts two gorilla-focused adventures, both of which offer the rare opportunity to sit with families of endangered mountain gorillas. The 10-day Great Uganda Gorilla Safari features two gorilla treks through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The 13-day Ultimate Gorilla Safari, our premier primate trip, features four different gorilla-tracking expeditions (two each in Uganda and Rwanda). Both trips also visit endangered chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale Forest.
8. Black Rhinos in Namibia
Namibia is home to more than a third of Africa’s black rhino population, with the world’s largest population in Etosha National Park. This rhino species has doubled its numbers over the past two decades, from a low point of fewer than 2,500 individuals. However, with the ever-present threat of poaching, the future of black rhinos in Africa will depend largely on our ability to protect them.
Where to see them: On Nat Hab’s 10-day Great Namibia Wildlife Safari, an exclusive fly-in adventure on the southwest edge of Africa, guests have the opportunity to search on foot for rare desert black rhinos alongside field experts from Save the Rhino Trust. We also track these massive mammals on our 16-day Epic Botswana & Namibia Safari.
9. Blue Whales in Sri Lanka
The largest animal on the planet, weighing as much as 200 tons, these behemoths of the sea sit at the very top of the food chain. They also have an important role in the overall health of our oceans. Like other large whales, blue whales are threatened by environmental change, including habitat loss and pollution. Climate change directly impacts krill, their major prey (blue whales eat about four tons every day!).
Where to see them: Search for them, plus other whales, on Nat Hab’s 11-day Sri Lanka Wildlife & Cultural Treasures adventure, which includes a private boat cruise in Mirissa Harbor, along with a chance to look for endangered Sri Lankan leopards in Yala National Park.
10. Snow Leopards in the Himalayas
Full disclosure: These big cats were recently removed from the endangered species list and are currently listed instead as “vulnerable.” But we’re still including them here because of their rarity and the many threats they face.
Often called the “ghosts of the mountains” or “gray ghosts,” thanks to their elusive nature and incredible natural camouflage, this magnificent big cat has ruled the high-altitude regions of 12 countries across Asia—a total range that covers an area of close to 772,204 square miles—for millennia. Poaching, habitat loss, declines in natural prey species, climate change and human conflict are the main reasons snow leopards are under threat.
Where to see them: Travelers can search for elusive snow leopards on two Nat Hab trips in the Himalayas of far-north India, with sightings increasing each season. On our 10-day Land of the Snow Leopard adventure, top trackers and naturalists accompany guests as they explore the austere alpine heights of Ladakh. And our 12-day Snow Leopard Quest: A Photo Pro Expedition is ideal for wildlife photographers willing to travel in pursuit of rare and coveted images few others have a chance to attain.
For more information about Endangered Species Day and how you can take part, visit endangered.org.