Giant Panda

10 of the Most Famous Endangered Species

They’re known as “charismatic megafauna” for a reason. These endangered animals ooze star power, a factor that conservationists have capitalized on in order to fund projects to protect them (and, often by default, the other organisms that share their complex ecosystems).

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People are far more likely to donate money to save an adorable panda or a magnificent tiger than they are to drop some shekels on preserving the limbless worm skink or the Gerlach’s cockroach.

However, skinks and roaches are integral participants in their ecosystems as well and just as deserving of assistance as their flashier compatriots. You might then consider the animals on this list the A-listers whose box office draw finances the continued existence of the lesser-known character actors who inhabit the same environments.

And if the concept of trickle-down conservation sticks in your craw, get to work on that “save the Gerlach’s cockroach” Kickstarter campaign. I’d donate. Maybe.

10. giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

Giant Pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. after they arrived from China in 2000.
Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) at the National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.
Jeff Tinsley/Smithsonian Institution

Everyone loves a panda…they might be the kitschiest animal humanity has driven to the brink of extinction yet. From stuffed animals to martial arts-trained CGI abominations, we just can’t seem to get enough of the bi-colored beasts. Though their “aww factor” may verge on the cloying, it hasn’t been without effect. China, which is home to the remaining wild population of fewer than 2,500 individuals, has since the late 1980s instituted more stringent habitat protections and poaching has all but ceased. Their status is still tenuous, though. Their range is fragmented and they are still subject to disease, occasional predation, and starvation when large swathes of the bamboo on which they feed completes its life cycle and dies.

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