On the Edge of Existence

On the Edge of Existence


In the last decade, the black rhino has come to occupy a high profile on South Africa’s threatened species list. However, sadly, the rhino is not the only animal in South Africa facing extinction. Of the 299 mammals in South Africa, 2 are critically endangered, 11 species are endangered, 15 are vulnerable and 13 are near-threatened. While some of the other animals on the endangered list are not as characteristic or memorable as the rhino, they are vital members of their respective ecosystems and their survival deserves some serious consideration nonetheless. Check out five of the most endangered species in South Africa – have you ever seen one of these animals?

The Riverine Rabbit


With probably no more than 200 individuals left, this mammal is one of the rarest and most endangered  in the world. It is currently found only in the Karoo National Park and in central and southern regions of the Karoo Desert, where habitat destruction poses a major threat to the survival of this species.

Status: critically endangered

Fin Whale


Growing to over 27 metres, this slender whale is the second longest of all whale species. Because of its incredible speeds (up to 40km) it’s nicknamed “the greyhound of the sea”). Even then it’s not fast enough to outswim its main predators: whaling vessels. Being hunted globally by several cultures, only 100,000 to roughly 119,000 of these creatures remain in the world’s seas. They can be spotted from the coastline in the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Status: endangered

Mountain Zebra


The white bellies and dewlaps of these zebras set them apart from the Burchell’s and Grévy’s species. Preferring the high ground of South Africa, as well as the coastal hills of Namibia and Angola and are currently protected in the Mountain Zebra National Park, in the Eastern Cape.

Status: vulnerable

Juliana’s Golden Mole


If you live in the northern regions of Mpumalanga, you may have spotted this mole in your garden. Endemic to South Africa, the creature is actually being threatened by its confinement to sandy soils, and pockets of sandstone with rocky ridges, and it is in fact being severely endangered by intensive urbanization. A small population inhabit the Pretoriuskop area in the Kruger National Park.

Status: endangered

Spectacled Petrel


A rare seabird with a lifespan of 26 years, this unusual bird divides its time between the coast of Southern Brazil and the west coast of southern Africa. During breeding season, the birds nest bang in between – on an inaccessible and remote volcanic group of islands in the south Atlantic Ocean known as Tristan da Cunha – the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world. Spot them off the south-Western coast of the Cape’s Agulhas National Park.

Status: critically endangered Update: According to the IUCN Red List for birds, the petrel is increasing in numbers and its status has been downgraded to vulnerable. There’s some great info on the petrel’s progress over at Get Birding.

2 Replies to “On the Edge of Existence”

  1. Your opening paragraph leads one to expect a list of mammals below. The Spectacled petrel is in stark contrast. It also says check out 8 of the most endangered species in southern Africa, there are only 5 and only two of them are considered critically endangered.