8 life-changing documentaries on endangered animals you should watch on Netflix right now

Netflix

Earth is filled with amazing creatures both large and small, but many of our planet's species face threats on several fronts, with thousands on the brink of disappearing forever. While extinction happens naturally, humans have played a significant role in accelerating the process — deforestation, overhunting, overfishing, building development and climate change all seriously impact the lives of animals. But not everyone is aware so many species are struggling to survive. Thankfully, Netflix is home to a plethora of documentaries aimed specifically at raising awareness on some of the most beautiful, terrifying, cutest and fiercest threatened and endangered animals on the planet. 

Here are eight of the best documentaries about endangered and threatened animal to watch on Netflix.

1. Humpback Whales

Source: MacGillivray Freeman/YouTube

Once hunted to the edge of extinction, humpback whales are finally increasing in numbers again. Most of populations of these gargantuan sea dwellers have been taken off the endangered species list, but they're far from in the clear. Humpback Whales, narrated by Ewan McGregor, examines these massive, majestic sea creatures, documenting the path that led to their near extinction and how they were saved.

2. More Than Honey

Source: Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films/YouTube

Bumblebees have been suffering huge losses in recent years, and it's unclear exactly why. The rusty patched bumblebee was declared endangered in March, making it the first bumblebee species to ever receive that classification. More Than Honey turns the lens toward these fastidious fliers, as the crew works to uncover the root of the mysterious colony collapse disorder as well as the large-scale economic impacts of the disappearing bumblebees. 

3. Snow Wolf Family and Me

Source: BBC Earth/YouTube

In 1920, gray wolf populations in the United States withered into the double digits. The 1973 Endangered Species Act helped revive their numbers, but various species of wolves have been off and on the endangered species list for decades. Snow Wolf Family and Me follows Gordon Buchanan as he treks through the Canadian wilderness in search of arctic wolves who have never laid eyes on humans. Buchanan is intrigued to learn how these ferocious pack animals became humankind's best friend, but it quickly becomes evident these curious critters are just as intrigued by Buchanan as he is by them.

4. Last Chance to See

Source: BBC/YouTube

In Last Chance to See, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine embark on an adventure to find some of the world's rarest and most endangered animals before they disappear forever. Along their journey, they find ancient-looking Komodo dragons, behemoth white rhinos and graceful manatees — hopefully they won't be the last ones to see these species.

5. Virunga 

Source: Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films/YouTube

One of humanity's closest living ancestors is in great peril. Mountain gorillas are critically endangered with their numbers estimated at a paltry 880 worldwide. These primates face threats of poaching, war, habitat destruction and disease on a daily basis, but while they have enemies on many fronts, they have allies on at least one: Virunga National Park rangers. These brave officers have created deep and meaningful bonds with the great apes they have sworn to protect, and they'll do what is necessary to ensure their safety. For a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this documentary, check out Virunga: Gorillas in Peril.

6. Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice

Source: BBC/YouTube

Polar bears are some of the most fascinating and curious animals around, but trying to capture them on camera can be something of a challenge, especially since most seem to think the pieces of camera equipment are toys meant just for them. Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice uses robotic camera systems to film these captivating creatures in their natural habitat, a feat that is becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish due to climate change.

7. Martin Clunes: A Lion Called Mugie

Source: WLRN Public Radio and Television/YouTube

African lions have been hunted to the verge of extinction, but their species has finally been added to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, granting them some level of protection from those looking to hang another trophy. In Martin Clunes:  A Lion Called Mugie, Martin travels to Kenya to shake paws with an orphaned lion cub named Mugie.

8. The Ivory Game

Source: Netflix/YouTube

Greed, corruption, power, ivory — they all play a major role in the rapid decline in African elephant numbers. These towering, kind-hearted animals are in serious danger of becoming just a memory in people's minds. The Ivory Game is a documentary that rattles the viewer, exposing them to the hard truth that exists in far away lands and distant plains. Elephants are being ruthlessly hunted, but a handful of good samaritans are laying down the law in the hopes that poachers will lay down their guns.

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