5 places to see endangered species in Asia

ACCORDING to a study by researchers at the University of East Anglia, climate change could result in a steep decline in population for half of the Earth’s common plants and a third of its animals by the year 2080.

Read more about that here.

Palawan, Western Visayas, PH. Pic: Zack Lee (Flickr CC)

So given that so many common species are (or soon will be) threatened by human activity, you can imagine that most already endangered species will either soon be gone or become living museum pieces.

But enough doom and gloom! Where can we gawk at them now?

All cynical joking aside, our gawking may be their only hope. If local economies benefit from a bit of endangered species-based eco-tourism, visiting while preserving their habitats can be a way to help save them.

What follows is a partial list of places in Asia to see endangered species.

Sumatra

The sixth largest island in the world, this region of Indonesia is at the top of the list for both exotic endangered species and habitat loss. Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinos and orangutans are obvious endangered attractions, though spotting the first two is unlikely. The chance to see a wild orangutan is best in Bukit Lawang, a village in Gunung Leuser National Park in the north of the island. There is also an orangutan rehabilitation center there. Despite the existence of a 25,000 square kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site of nominally protected rainforest divided into three national parks, illegal logging is a serious threat to endangered species and their rainforest habitat.

Laos

Laos has been praised for its ecological and ethical approach to tourism, which focuses on community based tourism and protecting the natural environment. The country’s relatively well-preserved rainforest ecosystems afford opportunities to see endangered and vulnerable species in the wild, including Asian elephants, three species of slow loris, various types of gibbons, langurs and macaques, as well as Malayan porcupines and pangolins. Laos is also home to both Sumatran and Javan rhinos; red pandas, sun bears and Indochinese tigers.

Read more about eco-tourism in Laos here.

White cheeked gibbon, Laos. Pic: Roger Smith (Flickr CC)

China

When discussing endangered species and China, one animal comes to mind – one two-tone, cute, bamboo-munching bear. There are only around 1,600 pandas left in the wild, so let’s leave them in peace. These shy, sensitive animals have enough problems. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is your best bet if you want to see pandas. Home to a revolutionary and experimental giant panda breeding program, there are simply more pandas there than at any other establishment on Earth.

China is a huge, rapidly industrializing emerging superpower, which means that besides pandas, they have lots of endangered species, from tigers to golden snub-nosed monkeys to fresh water dolphins. China is also third in the world in terms of plant diversity.

Read about eco-tourism in China here.

Philippines

This collection of islands is a fantastic place for witnessing endangered species in their native habitats. From Dugongs, which are found in waters throughout the country, to the whale shark Mecca of Donsol Bay, the Philippines has a lot to offer. Other favorites include a variety of sea turtles (hawksbill, Olive Ridley, loggerhead) in various coastal areas and the mysterious tarsier. There is even a tarsier sanctuary on Bohol Island.

Borneo

Shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the island of Borneo is the third largest island in the world and home to the oldest rainforest on Earth. It is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and is divided into four distinct eco-regions. These regions contain a dizzying variety of plants, birds, freshwater fish, and endangered mammals including the Bornean orangutan, Asian Elephant, Bornean clouded leopard, Sumatran rhino, slow loris and Hose’s civet. Deforestation (illegal and legal), poaching, mining and development are all threats to the continued survival of Borneo’s endangered species.

Giant Panda, Chengdu. Pic: La Priz (Flickr CC)