The wildlife in Asia is diverse and plentiful. In the thicknes of jungles and forest, to the shorelines of marine life, animal encounters are guaranteed. Rare and wonderful species are known to Asian terrain, however are often under threat due to human activity; poaching or habitat destruction so it is important to be aware of unethical tourism practices and to seek out sustainable tours to experience the wildlife. We have chosen to focus on seven Asian countires based on the wildlife they offer to nature enthusiasts but we are sure the list will keep growing to capture the true vastness of the continent’s natural wonders!
Asia is Earth’s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It makes up the world’s largest and most diverse continent by occupying the eastern four-fifths of the giant Eurasian landmass.
Are you captivated yet? Read on or jump to the headline of the country’s wildlife you are most intrigued to learn about/ excited to encounter in the wild…
Wildlife in Asia: Maldives
The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator, making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed sovereign states. In particular it is made up of around 1,190 individual islands. The Maldives has one of the most delicate environments anywhere on the planet. Coral reefs are the foundation of the islands. They offer protection to the tiny islands as its natural defense system and so it has to be conserved.
The Maldives has a year-round hot tropical climate. Historically, the Maldives was an important crossroad in the Indian Ocean, hence Maldivian culture is a melting pot of various influences gathered from visitors who set foot there over the centuries. The islands that make up Maldives are characterised by beautiful blue oceans and amazing white sandy beaches. There are over 2,000 species of fish found in the waters surrounding the islands.
The Maldives wildlife includes an array fruit bats, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, whales, dolphins, reef sharks, turtles, reef and marine fish, manta rays, eagle rays, skinks, geckos and many more.
Due to the small size of the island nation there are very few land-based mammals and reptiles (and no domestic dogs). There is only one species of flying fox and one shrew species that are endemic to the islands and there is only one gecko species as well as some snakes. Most of the mammals and reptiles found in Maldives are in the water. Whales and dolphins are common, so too are sea turtles like the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle and the leatherback turtle. There are also various sea snakes and even saltwater crocodiles. Much like the mammals and reptiles, the most common birds in Maldives are pelagic or ocean birds. There are over 2,000 species of fish found in the waters surrounding the islands. There are mantra rays, stingrays and eagle rays as well as many kinds of anemones and jellyfish. Octopus, squid and clams are common, so too are giant clams.
Wildlife in Asia: Sharks love the Maldives archipelago for its ideal waters and abundance of food. You will find different types of reef sharks in Maldives that are quite beautiful but not at all harmful to human Tourists often swim with them during scuba diving in the Maldives. Off the reefs you may find hammerheads in Maldivian waters too, as well as graceful, spotted leopard sharks and sinister-looking – though totally harmless – blacktip reef sharks. In 2010, a shark sanctuary was implemented in the Maldives when the declining status of shark fisheries and concerns over decreased shark sightings from divers encouraged the government to announce a total ban on shark fisheries in its waters.
You will find different categories of turtles, endemic to the wildlife in the Maldives, including Green turtles, leatherback turtle, hawksbill turtle, and many more. Almost half of all the identified green sea turtles in the Maldives live in Lhaviyani Atoll, and nearly all of them can be found around Kuredu.
The Maldives is far more than just white, idyllic beaches and clear waters… It is home to countless marine life, bold south eastern culture and cuisine, hospitality and endless opportunities for tourism, wildlife encounter and discoveries.
Wildlife in Asia: Nepal
Nepal, the home of the tallest mountain in the world Mount Everest. Besides being known for the beautiful Himalayan Mountain range, there is an abundance of beautiful wildlife in this country.
Nepal’s dense tarai jungles are home to exotic animals like the Asiatic elephant, the one-horned rhinoceros, the Royal Bengal tiger among others among many others.
Wildlife in Asia: The Asian elephant is the largest of all mammals in Nepal today. Its shoulder height varies from 2.5 to 3m, and a male elephant can weigh up to 5,000 kg! Elephants have an excellent memory and a long lifespan – similar to that of humans. Elephants are an important part of Nepalese culture and Nepal has a long history of domestication of wild elephants for various purposes. Hindu religious books are replete with stories about elephants.Elephants are an important part of Nepalese culture and Nepal has a long history of domestication of wild elephants for various purposes. Hindu religious books are replete with stories about elephants.Rulers of Asian countries capitalized on the versatility of trained elephants and used them in war, timber trade, transportation of goods, and for religious ceremonies.
The one-horned rhinoceros
The greater one-horned rhinoceros also known as the Indian rhinoceros, is a grey giant, second only to an elephant in size. The greater one-horned rhinoceros is commonly found only in South Asia and South East Asia. Historically, the rhinos were distributed in the floodplain and forest tracts in Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus river valley. Today, however, no more than 2,000 remain in the wild, with only two populations containing more than 100 rhinos.
In Nepal, the rhino population was estimated at ca. 1,000 in the Chitwan valley until 1950. Recognizing the need to halt the decline of rapidly diminishing rhino population, Government of Nepal established the “Gainda Gasti “, an armed Rhino Patrol Unit in 1961, and declared the remaining prime rhino habitats, about 544 sq km along Rapti, Narayani and Reu rivers, as the Chitwan National Park. Rhinos inhabit the alluvial flood-plain vegetation of sub-tropical climates where water and green grass is available all year. Many rhinos now live within blocks of the suitable rhino habitat in CNP. Rhinos occurred in highest densities along the flood plain grasslands and riverine forests bordering the Rapti, Narayani, Reu, and Dhungre rivers.
Royal Bengal tiger
Tigers are the most charismatic and well known largest of all the Asian big cats. Tigers have narrow black, brown or gray stripes on their heads, bodies and limbs. Tigers can be differentiated easily since the pattern of stripes is unique to each individual.
In Nepal, fragmentation and loss of natural habitat and poaching are the major impediment to effective conservation.Tigers are facing a serious danger of becoming extinct in the wild. There were once nine subspecies of tigers: Bengal, Siberian, Indochinese, South Chinese, Sumatran, Malayan, Caspian, Javan and Bali. Since 1998, tigers have lost 40 percent of their habitat. Today, just in one century, the estimated tiger population in the wild has been declined to as few as 3,200 globally whereas in Nepal alone there are 198 tigers as per the survey conducted in the year 2013 marking an increment in the population by 63% from the last survey in 2009.
Snow leopards are found only in the mountains of central Asia and the Himalayas. It is estimated that there are about 4,510-7,350 snow leopards. In Nepal, snow leopards are distributed along its northern frontier. Of these, the districts of Mustang, Mugu, Dolpo and Humla feature prominently for snow leopard populations. A habitat suitability index model of snow leopard habitat in Nepal ‘s northern frontier suggests an estimated population of 350-500 animals in Nepal, constituting one-tenth of the world’s snow leopard population. Based on sightings, reports and anecdotal oral history, snow leopard presence has been suggested in 8 mountain protected areas of Nepal. Despite Nepal ‘s continual effort to save the snow leopard, its long-term viability is threatened by the conflict from livestock depredation and retaliatory killings, poaching, and loss of habitat because of high density of livestock in grazing areas.
Nepal is home to some of the most incredible animals around the globe. Sadly, these populations are ever declining and it is an unfortunate universal truth that not enough is being done to help save these gorgeous animals.
Wildlife in Asia: Thailand
Thailand, a popular and stunning beach destination in the South East of Asia. This country, rich in culture and beauty also is home to the most amazing wildlife. Thailand is home to more than 10% of the world’s animals. There are more than 285 mammal species including elephants, tigers, leopards, Malaysian sun bears, sambars, deer and otters as well as a variety of primate species including gibbons, monkeys and macaques. Sheep, goats, wild cattle and wild hogs are also common.
Elephant sanctuaries are becoming more popular, offering tourists the chance to feed or bathe elephants, instead of riding them. However, these sanctuaries still involve unnatural behaviour and a high level of interaction between people and elephants. GVI’s Chiang Mai elephant project is pioneering a new approach to elephant tourism. Our project limits interaction to the minimum required, while still supporting the elephants and their mahouts, and giving volunteers an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Malaysian Sun Bear
The Malaysian sun bear can be clearly distinguished from other bears by a white or yellowish patch on the chest. The form a small part of Wildlife in Thailand but certainly are special as they are so rare and unique. Sun bears are excellent climbers and spend considerable amounts of time in trees.
The Sun Bear was formerly widespread in the lowland forests of South East Asia. However, it has mostly disappeared in recent decades from most of its former ranges. Nevertheless, Sun Bear is still found widespread in a few protected areas.
Gibbon any of approximately 20 species of small apes found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Gibbons, like the great apes have a humanlike build and no tail but gibbons seem to lack higher cognitive abilities and self-awareness.
Gibbons are still widely distributed in the rainforests and monsoon forests of Southeast Asia, but they are more and more under threat as their forest habitat is destroyed.
In Thailand, the Indochinese leopard is present in the Western Forest Complex, Kaeng Krachan-Kui Buri and Khlong Saeng-Khao Sok protected area complexes. But since the turn of the 21st century, it has not been recorded any more in the northern and south-central forest complexes of the country.
The leopard’s success in the wild is due to its well camouflaged fur, its opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet and strength to move heavy carcass into trees, its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest, steppe to arid and montane areas and to run at speeds up to .
Wildlife in Asia: Vietnam
Vietnam is among the most naturally diverse countries in Asia. The country’s coastlines, caves, mountain ranges, swamps, rivers, and tropical forests provide a habitat for wildlife.
Vietnam is home to a plethora of temples, shrines, pagodas, and religious sites. These enchanting structures range from Hindu shrines to Buddist monasteries. There are 30 national parks across Vietnam dotted from north to south, coast to border region.
While there were once thousands of wild elephants in Vietnam, experts from Animals Asia say there are only 114 left in the country. Despite the small wild elephant population, human-elephant conflict is a serious and ongoing problem in Vietnam. There are five groups of wild elephants, with the largest population found in Yok Don National Park (in Dak Lak Province), an area of 100,000 hectares.
Asiatic Black Bears ( Sun/ Moon Bears)
Found from southern China to eastern India and as far south as Indonesia, sun bears, also called Malayan sun bears, take their name from the marking on their chest. The Sun Bear is the smallest, least well-known and one of the rarest of all the bear species.
Indochinese Tigers & Leopards
Wildlife in Asia: Indochinese tiger is only found in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos,Thailand, and Vietnam. In Indochina, leopards are rare outside protected areas and threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation as well as poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. The leopard once appeared throughout all of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. It is very rare and special to witness a Indochinese Leopard.
Where to see wildlife in Vietnam: Indochinese Tiger
Pu Mat National Park : Pù Mát National Park is a national park in Nghệ An Province, in Vietnam’s North Central Coast region. It is praised as the largest forest in north-central Vietnam and a flagship national wildlife deserve.
In Vietnam, 12 species of leaf-eating monkeys are have been recognized, spreading from the North to the South. They are in three genera, Pygathrix, the Douc Langurs, Rhinopithecus, the Snub-Nosed Monkeys and Trachypithecus, or Crested Langurs.
Where to see Wildlife in Vietnam: Monkeys
- Yok Don National Park.
- Cuc Phung National Park.
- Monkey Island In Nha Trang.
- Cat Tien National Park.
- Phong Nha National Park.
Pygmy Slow Loris
The pygmy slow loris is a species of slow loris; a nocturnal primate, found east of the Mekong River in Vietnam, Laos, eastern Cambodia, and China.
The Sunda pangolin also known as the Malayan or Javan pangolin, is a species of pangolin. It is found throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.
Where to see Wildlife in Vietnam: Pangolins
Both species are generally found in forested areas and are secretive in nature making it difficult to study population trends. The largest threat to Pangolin survival is the illegal hunting and trade of pangolin and pangolin products.
Vietnam is a cultural hub of rich history and extensive natural resources, home to countless wildlife and opportunities to encounter and witness wildlife in the wild. Let us know if you have seen or hope to see any wildlife of Vietnam!
Wildlife in Asia: Indonesia
Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of over seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guinea. Indonesia is comprised of so much more to experience. From the friendly locals, to cuisines, opportunities to encounter orangutans and other unique wildlife in the wild, it offers visitors a once-in-a-life experience!
Indonesia is the largest nation in Southeast Asia (by size) and the fourth most populous country on earth. It’s a geological wonderland on the Equator, boasting hundreds of volcanoes which meet at the Indian and Pacific Oceans, a culturally diverse and exotic landmark. More than 20 million people visit Indonesia per year, and its basically because they want to see their famous beaches, (active) volcanoes and fantastic landscapes.
Indonesia’s forests represent 10% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests, and therefore accomodates thousands of wildlife species. It’s estimated that there are more than 300,000 wildlife species.
The Borneo elephant, also called the Borneo pygmy elephant, is a subspecies of Asian elephant that inhabits northeastern Borneo, in Indonesia and Malaysia. Generally they are found in lowland forest, which in the Kinabatangan is seasonally inundated with floodwaters. It is estimated that there are only around 1,500 Borneo elephants left in the wild. This is unfortunately due to deforestation from logging and plantations, making this the biggest threat to the elephant’s survival.
Sumatran orangutans are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Sadly just over 13,000 Sumatran orangutans are left in the wild making the species in critical danger of extinction. The influence a Sumatran Orangutan has on its environment is very prevelent: If orangutans were to disappear, so would several tree species, especially those with larger seeds.
The Official National Animal of Indonesia. The Komodo dragon, which holds the distinction of the largest species of lizards in the world, is the official animal of Indonesia.
The Javan rhinoceros, also known as the Sunda rhinoceros or lesser one-horned rhinoceros. They may also be compared by size; they are the smaller and lighter relative of the greater one-horned rhino. Unfortunately theJavan Rhino is the rarest of the rhino species with 74 animals currently surviving only in Indonesia. In the wild they can only be found in one place on the globe; all Javan Rhinos live in a single site on the island of Java.
The pygmy tarsier/ mountain tarsier is a nocturnal primate found in central Sulawesi, Indonesia, in an area with lowland forset. The Pygmy tarsier is Indonesia’s smallest primate species. Pygmy Tarsiers need to be protected because they have an important impact on their natural environment. They regulate and control insect communities and having an impact on local food webs.
From the culture, food, history to the diverse wildlife from beaches to jungles, Indonesia’s islands are a must visit for any nature enthusiast.
Wildlife in Asia: Philippines
The Philippines are inhabited by more than 200 species of mammals. It is an archipelago consisting of some 7,100 islands and islets lying about 500 miles (800 km) off the coast of Vietnam. The Philippines is rich in biodiversity and of course this reflects in the wildlife; animals in the philippines.
The Philippines is also home to world-renowned natural wonders like an underground river and rice terraces, incredible diving spots rich in biodiversity, colorful public transportation, unique cuisine, vibrant festivals that showcase its colorful culture, and exceptional hospitality.
We cover the top five unique wildlife to see in the Philippines;
Tamaraw/ Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo
The tamaraw or Mindoro dwarf buffalo is a small hoofed mammal belonging to the family Bovidae. It is endemic to the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, and is the only endemic Philippine bovine. The tamaraw is a heritage species of major importance for the Philippines. It is the only wild cattle species living in the country and occurs only on the island of Mindoro. There are likely no more than 580 tamaraws surviving today on the island.
The Visayan spotted deer, also known as the “Philippine spotted deer“, is a nocturnal and endangered species of deer located primarily in the rainforests of the Visayan islands of Panay and Negros though it once roamed other islands. The Philippine deer is endemic to the Philippines, where it occurs in the islands of Luzon, Polillo and Catanduanes, Mindoro, Samar and Leyte.
Binturongs are also called bearcats, but that name is but that name is rather misleading since they are not related to bears or cats. Instead, they are related to civets and fossas. They live in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
Palawan Peacock Peasant
This bird Is a shy and elusive bird that is endemic to the humid forests of Palawan Island in the Archipelago.
Thresher sharks are largesharks found in all temperate and tropical oceans of the world. They may be found specifically in temperate waters around the world. Malapascua Island in the Philippines is the best place in the world to see thresher sharks. From here, divers can reliably see pelagic thresher sharks on a regular basis.
Aside from the breathtaking wildlife, the Philippines hosts scenic landscapes, is home to the friendliest locals, unforgettable cuisines, untouched beaches and boasts so many opportunities to embark on activities and adventures in nature. A location for everyone’s bucket list!
Wildlife in Asia: Japan
Japan has a rich and diverse natural wildlife including a variety of endemic animal and plant species which are, in some cases, extremely rare. With much of Japan mountainous, forested and uninhabited, there’s plenty of space for wildlife. Iconic species include the Japanese macaque, leopard cat, red-crowned crane, Steller’s sea eagle and Ussuri brown bear and many more…
Wildlife in Asia: Also called snow monkeys, are found on three of the four main Japanese islands—Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu—and live further north than any other macaque species. They live in a variety of habitats throughout these islands including subalpine, subtropical, deciduous, and evergreen forest mountains, they really are so versatile! Thriving in winter temperatures that fall as low as -5 degrees F (-15 degrees C) and with snow cover that is more than 3 ft (1 m) deep. Famously, they warm themselves by bathing in hot thermal springs that are heated by nearby volcanoes. These macaques are therefore very famously and appropriately nick-named the snow monkeys of Japan.
The primary ecological role of Japanese macaques is to disperse seeds. Through their rich plant-based diet, many plant seeds pass through the Japanese macaque’s gastrointestinal tract and are deposited in the environment, where they are able to spread and grow. Japanese macaques also have a commensalism relationship with the sika deer, as the deer eats leaves the Japanese macaque knocks to the ground when foraging in the treetops.
Giant Spider Crab
Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans in the world – males grow to approximately 1m in length with a 4m leg stretch. These crabs live at depths of approximately 400m and in temperatures between 11ºC and 14ºC. Very little is known about the biology of giant spider crabs.
Raccoon Dogs, not surprisingly, look like a cross between a raccoon and a small dog. Although they are relatively small animals, their fur is so long and puffy that it can make them look very plump. A mask of black fur wraps around their eyes, giving them the appearance of a trickster or bandit. They have dog-like paws and a short, puffy tail. The inspiration for the magical Tanuki is believed to come from China, where people believed in god-like, shape-shifting wildcats, usually leopards. Because Japan didn’t have any animals quite like the fearsome leopard, Japanese scholars transferred the power to other creatures like stray cats, badgers, weasels, and even wild boars. Eventually, the Fox and the Raccoon Dog became the most popular vessels for these magical powers, and they were revered as gods who ruled over nature.
This wildcat is considered the Lock Ness Monster of Japan! While you’re exploring Iriomote Island, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the yamaneko, an elusive wildcat which was discovered in 1965 and can only be found on Iriomote. Related to the leopard, it’s only the size of a domesticated house cat and a nocturnal animal, most active around twilight.
Wildlife in Asia: The Steller’s Sea Eagle is one of the largest and most fierce diurnal birds on Earth. These Eagles are huge, on average the heaviest raptor on our planet, weighing up to 10 kg (22 pounds). he Steller’s Sea Eagle is protected by law and is designated as a National Treasure in Japan, and is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Endangered species. Around 5000 remain in the wild, and over 2000 visit Japan every winter. On a bird watching trip to Hokkaido, priority should be given to tracking Steller’s sea eagles which can be seen from the Nemuro Peninsula.
Wildlife in Asia: Conservation
Animals Asia is devoted to ending bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals across Asia. We promote compassion and respect for all animals and work to bring about long-term change. Founded in 1998, the Animals Asia team has been rescuing bears since 1994. We operate award winning bear rescue sanctuaries in China and Vietnam, and we are the only organisation with a bear sanctuary in China. Our founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, Dr.med.vet. h.c., Hon LLD is widely recognised as the world’s leading authority on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993.
Wildlife in Asia: Summary
Asia holds some of the world’s most unique wildlife and natural wonders in the world. Do you agree? Comment below which animal you’d love to see in the wild!
Did you enjoy learning about the wildlife in Asia? For our Asia featured blogs in context you can refer to our blog page for more exhilerating account of willdife. Or if you’re interested in special wildlife have a look at our recently endangered animals and rare animals of 2021 blogs