Amur leopard
Amur leopards are critically endangered by poaching, deforestation and encroaching civilisation Getty

World Wildlife Day is marked on 3 March and is observed annually to raise awareness of the threats to wild fauna and flora and the importance of improved conservation efforts and the fight against wildlife crime.

As of 2014, there are 2,464 animals and 2,104 plants that have been labelled "critically endangered" and therefore face a high risk of extinction in the wild. The figures have more than doubled since 1998, when the levels were 854 and 909, respectively.

"Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other pernicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, humans, counterfeit items and oil. It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance. There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organised crime networks and non-Stated armed groups," United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said.

"Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories."

On the second annual World Wildlife Day, IBTimes UK looks at five of the most critically endangered animals around the world.

1. Amur leopard

The population of the world's rarest cat, also known as the Far Eastern Leopard, is around 57 in Russia and 12 in adjacent areas of China – as the animals are threatened by poaching, encroaching civilisation, new roads and the exploitation of forests.

In the Russian Far East, the rare subspecies has adapted to life in the temperate forests that made the northern-most parts of the species' range. Amur leopards are solitary, strong and nimble, with the reported ability to leap more than 19ft horizontally and 10ft vertically. According to wildlife experts, some male Amur leopards stay with females after mating and even help rear cubs.

Black rhino
A baby black rhino stays close to her mother at the Metrozoo in Miami Getty

2. Javan rhino

There are as few as 35 Javan rhinos surviving in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam was poached in 2010. Once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses, the Sunda rhino, ranged from the islands of Java and Sumatra into India and China, but populations were destroyed by poaching – primarily for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicines.

As European presence in their range increased, trophy hunting also posed a threat to the animals, as did habitat loss as a result of the Vietnam war. Although the remaining Javan rhinos live in a nationally protected area, they are still at risk from poachers, disease and loss of genetic diversity, which leads to inbreeding depression.

3. Hawksbill turtle

The Hawksbill is a critically endangered sea turtle found in the tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The turtles have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells, which have made them highly valuable and commonly sold as "tortoiseshell" in markets.

Hawkbills mainly feed on sponges, using their narrow, pointed beaks to pick them from a reef, but also on jellyfish and sea anemones. The ancient creatures are 100 million years old and are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems, to help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds.

Hawksbill turtle
A Hawksbill sea turtle is seen swimming in Lady Elliot Island, Australia Getty Images

4. Black rhino

There are just 5,055 black rhinos left in the wild in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi. During the 19<sup>th century, as European influence over land use and trade strengthened, the black rhino was hunted relentlessly.

By 1970, there were 65,000 of the animals left, a figure now much smaller due to the continuance of poaching. The demand of rhino horn in Chinese medicines led to a 96% decline in black rhino numbers between 1970 and 1991. Black rhinos are solitary animals in the wild, known for their shy yet territorially aggressive behaviour in comparison to African white rhinos.

5. Cross river gorilla

Estimates suggest there are only around 200 to 300 of these gorillas left in the wild, scattered in around 11 groups across the forests and rainforests of Cameroon and Nigeria.

The subspecies is aesthetically similar to the more numerous western lowland gorilla but vary in terms of skull structure. Cross River gorillas live in a region with a high population of humans who have encroached on their territory by deforestation, to make way for agriculture. Poaching also occurs in forests, with devastating consequences for the animals.

You can tweet your support for World Wildlife Day using the hashtag #seriousaboutwildlifecrime.