Mei discovering her panda form in Turning Red

10 Most Endangered Disney Characters In Real Life

Everyone had their favorite films growing up and (chances are) you also had a crush on an unreasonably attractive cartoon animal. For me, it was Kovu in Lion King 2, but other prime contenders are foxy Robin Hood or Georgette from Oliver and Company.

Recommended Videos

Disney immortalizes animal sidekicks like no one else, but in the real world, many of these well-loved figures are facing the worst effects of climate change and human activities. In fact, many of your favorite animal characters from Disney are now on their way to becoming extinct.

Tanzania Odyssey, an organization that works with the African Rainforest Conservancy to provide habitats for hundreds of endemic species, has worked out which animal characters are the most endangered to help raise awareness of some of the most vulnerable species in the world. Here are the top ten most endangered animal species that were featured in Disney films.

10) Destiny the whale shark, ‘Finding Dory’

Destiny the whale shark from Finding Dory

Despite her wide grin, Destiny and her kind are classed as endangered, with just 119,000 left in the wild. Known as one of the ocean’s gentle giants, whale sharks are not dangerous to humans, feeding largely on plankton. They travel enormous distances to find enough food for their size, with some of them growing to 20 metres long.

While fishing and hunting of them is prohibited in many places, some areas still hunt them for their meat and oil, posing a danger to their global numbers.

9) Crush and Squirt the sea turtles, ‘Finding Nemo’

Crush and Squirt from Finding Nemo

The surfer dude turtles from Finding Nemo may have seemed chilled and at ease, real-life sea turtles are facing a number of threats, ranging from over-hunting by humans to peril as a result of by-catch and destruction of their habitats.

Of the seven sea turtle species, six of them are classes as endangered, despite global attempts to rejuvenate their populations. At the moment, there are around 85,000 of them in the wild.

8) Dumbo the Asian elephant, ‘Dumbo’

Disney's animated Dumbo.

Just 20,000 Asian elephants are estimated to be alive in the wild. Asia is the most populous continent on Earth, leading to rapid human expansion into their habitats.

As a result, the loss of food, environment, and fragmentation of the species has led to their decline. Over the last three generations, 50% of their population has been lost.

7) Mei Lee the red panda, ‘Turning Red’

Mei Lee the red panda in Turning Red

In her red panda form, Mei Lee would be facing some very different dangers. Their major threats are habitat loss and degradation, human interference, and poaching. Commonly found in in India, Bhutan, China, Nepal and Myanmar, it’s believed that red panda populations have dropped by 40% in the last 20 years.

At the moment, it’s estimated that there are just 10,000 left in the wild.

6) Shere Khan the tiger, ‘Jungle Book’

Shere Khan from The Jungle Book

While we wouldn’t be sorry to see the back of Shere Khan and his wicked ways, his species as a whole is in desperate need of protection. It’s believed that 3,000 of these solitary tigers are left in the wild. Their major threat is illegal wildlife trade (thank you, Tiger King) and human poaching.

Their far-ranging hunting habits makes it extra difficult to protect them, as they can range across hundreds of miles of territory to find prey or a mate.

5) Abu the blonde capuchin, ‘Aladdin’

Abu from Aladdin

Depending on their location, blonde capuchins like adorable Abu are facing two types of threat, both resulting in loss of habitat, either through deforestation in the Atlantic forest habitat or desertification in the Caatinga habitat. As a result, it’s thought there are just 500 of the species left.

4) King Louie the orangutan, ‘Jungle Book’

King Louie from the Jungle Book

Classed as critically endangered, King Louie’s species of orangutan has just 112,000 animals left. Like many others on this list, deforestation has led to a dramatic loss of habitat and therefore population size. In real-life, it’s sadly much harder for orangutans to relocate into abandoned temples.

3) Tantor the African forest elephant, ‘Tarzan’


It appears that Tarzan’s animals have been hit pretty hard when it comes to vulnerability, with one of Tarzan’s best friends, Tantor the African Forest Elephant also now being classed as critically endangered. Sadly, the species has suffered a sharp decline over the last 15 years due to a significant increase in poaching. At the beginning of the 1990s, there were thought to be around 700,000 individuals but this number has since dwindled to less than 100,000.

2) Terk the Grauer Gorilla, ‘Tarzan’

Terk from Tarzan

In second place is the ‘big sister’ to Tarzan, Terk, a Grauer Gorilla. Despite the animated character being a force to be reckoned with, it is sad to see the Grauer Gorilla population struggling at the hands of society. The species is considered critically endangered with only around 5,000 individuals left in the world. In fact, since the Disney movie was released in 1999, the species has decreased by a staggering 30%.

1) Blu the Spinx Macaw, ‘Rio’

Blu from Rio

Sadly, in the top spot is the Spinx Macaw, or Blu from the Pixar animated film, Rio. No longer just endangered, the Spinx Macaw is now considered completely extinct in the wild, with only 250 thought to be left in captivity.

There’s still hope for Blu though, with a breeding program recently launched with some early success, so fingers crossed for increasing numbers of this species in the future.

(featured image: Disney)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy