In this blog we’ll be looking at some very rare animals around the globe! We have pinpointed five that you would be extremely lucky to see in the wild! All of these animals are sadly in danger of becoming extinct, this is due to some sad habitat destruction and other factors. Use the below headings to guide you through to the rarest animals that you’re interested in! Otherwise enjoy the blog in its entirety.
First, we have the Pangolin! This animal has a whole blog dedicated to it: Pangolins: The complete guide so give this a red if you are interested. Otherwise, here are the key things you need to know about Pangolins…
Where can one find Pangolins?
There are eight known species of Pangolins situated in Asia and Africa. However, finding Pangolins can be tricky due to their lessening population, despite their presence all around the globe. All of them are unique in colouration, size, and terrain habitats, however all eight species share many characteristics and all are in need of support of anti-poaching regimes.
The four types of Pangolins found in Asia are:
- The Chinese Pangolin
- The Sunda Pangolin
- The Indian Pangolin
- The Philippine Pangolin
All of the Asian Pangolins are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The four African species include:
- The Ground Pangolin
- The Giant Pangolin
- The White-bellied Pangolin
- The Black-bellied Pangolin
These African creatures are all sadly listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.
Pangolins are solitary animals, most are nocturnal (which means they are active at night) and highly secretive, making it difficult for scientists to study Pangolins in the wild. Many mysteries remain about their behaviour and habits today, as the different types are quite unique in their characteristics and behaviours.
Some pangolin species including the Chinese pangolin sleep underground in burrows during the day, and others including Black-bellied pangolins and Sunda pangolins are known to sleep up top in trees. They then venture out into the night to forage for insects.
Pangolins are well adapted for digging, they dig burrows with their strong front legs and claws, using their tails and rear legs for support and balance. Tunnelling underground, they excavate the sides and roofs of passages by pushing up and from side to side with their tough scaled bodies.
They use their front and hind feet to kick back accumulated soil toward the burrow entrance. They can burow a few meters at a time, to retrieve their anty dinner from below.
Chinese pangolins in temperate areas spend the winter months in deep burrows they create themselves. The winter burrows are strategically excavated near termite nests so that a lasting food source during this time underground is ensured. In a Chinese legend pangolins are said to travel all around the world underground, and in the Cantonese language the name for pangolins translates to “the animal that digs through the mountain,” or “Chun-shua-cap,” which translates to “scaly hill-borer.”
While pangolins species share many characteristics and habits, there are also fundamental differences between them. White-bellied pangolins are arboreal tree climbers, while ground pangolins are terrestrial ground dwellers. And some, including all four Asian species, are opportunistic and can be found foraging both in trees and on the ground.
Indian pangolins found in Sri Lanka reportedly live in the rainforest canopy where fruit and flowers that attract ants are abundant. They keep up high instead of at ground level where it is very dark and the food supply is limited. Some pangolin species even have semi-prehensile tails, meaning they can grasp and hang from branches with their tails, which aids them in climbing and general “off-ground” life.
Pangolin scales all over their bodies provide good defence against predators. When threatened, pangolins can quickly curl into a ball, protecting their defenceless underbellies. They also deter predators by hissing and puffing, and lashing their sharp edged tails towards the predator.
Pangolins are dependent on their strong sense of smell. They identify their territories by scent marking areas with urine and secretions from a special gland near their tail. Scientists suspect that these odours advertise dominance and sexual status, and may also help individual pangolins recognize each other
2. The Giant Squid
Another one of the rarest animals we are going to discuss is the Giant Squid. Giant squid’s live up to their name: the largest giant squid ever recorded by scientists was almost 43 feet (13 meters) long, and may have weighed nearly a ton. You’d think such a huge animal wouldn’t be hard to miss. But because the ocean is vast and giant squid live deep underwater, they remain elusive and are rarely seen: most of what we know comes from dead carcasses that floated to the surface and were found by fishermen.
But after years of searching, in 2012 a group of scientists from Japan’s National Science Museum along with colleagues from Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel filmed a giant squid in its natural habitat for the first time. The species was first recorded live in 2006, after researchers suspended bait beneath a research vessel off the Ogasawara Islands to try and hook a giant squid. As the camera whirred, the research team pulled a 24-foot (7-meter) squid to the surface alive enabling people around the world to finally see a living, breathing giant squid.
A giant squid’s body may look pretty simple: Like other squids and octopuses, it has two eyes, a beak, eight arms, two feeding tentacles, and a funnel (also called a siphon). But, of course, all of it is much larger!
Giant squid can snatch prey up to 33 feet (10 meters) away by shooting out their two feeding tentacles, which are tipped with hundreds of powerful sharp-toothed suckers. These feeding tentacles are very long, often doubling the total length of the giant squid on their own.
Eight thick arms speckled with 2-inch wide toothed suckers guide prey from the feeding tentacles to a sharp beak in the center of the arms, where the prey is sliced into bite-sized pieces. These bites are further cut and ground by the radula, a tongue-like organ covered with rows of teeth, that is inside the squid’s beak.
The head holds eyes the size of dinner plates -the largest in the animal kingdom. At 1 foot (30 centimeters) in diameter, these huge eyes absorb more light than their smaller counterparts would, allowing the squid to glimpse bioluminescent prey – or sight predators lurking -in the dark. The squid’s complex brain, which is tiny compared to its body, is shaped like a donut. Strangely enough, its esophagus runs through the “donut hole” in the middle, which makes grinding up food into tiny bits an evolutionary priority.
Giant squid are thought to swim in the ocean worldwide, based on the beaches they’ve washed upon. However, they’re rarely found in tropical and polar areas. They commonly wash up on the shores of New Zealand and Pacific islands, make frequent appearances on the east and west sides of the Northern Atlantic, and the South Atlantic along the southern coast of Africa.
3. Boto/Pink River Dolphin
The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the pink river dolphin or boto, lives only in freshwater. It is found throughout much of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. It is a relatively abundant freshwater cetacean with an estimated population in the tens of thousands. However, it is classified as vulnerable in certain areas due to dams that fragment and threaten certain populations, and from other threats such as contamination of rivers and lakes.Below are 5 facts about these cute pink dolphins which you must know!
Fact 1. The Amazon pink river dolphin can change its color!
Although Amazon pink river dolphins are famous for its pink hue, they weren’t born this way. The dolphins are actually born gray and slowly turn pink as they age. Male dolphins are strikingly pinker than their female counterparts; the coloration thought to be a product of scar tissue resulting from rough games or fighting over conquests. However, their final color can be influenced by their behavior, capillary placement, diet, and exposure to sunlight; with brighter pinks attracting more attention from the females. These river dolphins can sport markings that range from mostly gray with some pink spots, to full flamingo pink.
Fun fact: when the dolphins get excited, they can flush a brighter pink, similar to humans!
Fact 2. The Amazon pink river dolphin has the largest bodies and brains of any freshwater dolphin
The Amazon pink river dolphin is the largest and smartest out of the five freshwater species. A full-grown dolphin can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, weigh up to 400 pounds (181 kilograms), and live to 30 years old. Their diet is the most diverse amongst toothed whales (especially during the wet season), consisting of more than 53 species, including piranhas. They also have unusually large brains, with 40 percent more brain capacity than humans! While they are known to be shy creatures, they are fascinatingly drawn to people, playing curiously with local children, and without demonstrating aggressive behavior. They also communicate using high-frequency sonar clicks to build a three-dimensional echogram of their dark riverine world.
Fact 3. The Amazon pink river dolphin is secretive in nature
It is an enigma as to how many “botos” exist in the Amazon, as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as ‘data deficient’. Part of this status is because while dolphins have a reputation for gathering in groups, the pink river dolphin is often seen alone or in small groups of 2-4 individuals, usually mother and young. One challenge in counting them is that the riverine waters are often murky with silt. Another is that they do not go out of their way to make themselves seen, often putting only the tips of their heads out of the water. They spend a lot of time underwater, and their shy and elusive behavior adds to their mythical quality.
Paradoxically, the good news is that despite living in small groups, Amazon pink river dolphins are incredibly curious and outgoing animals towards humans. They can be frequently spotted playing in the river by our guests during our skiff excursions.
Endangered Amazon Animals: Pink River Dolphins (Boto) In the Peruvian Amazon
Fact 4. The Amazon pink river dolphin are gymnasts of the water
Pink river dolphins are super agile, as the vertebrae in their necks are unfused, unlike other dolphins. The ability to turn their heads to an angle of 90 degrees allows them to maneuver around tree trunks, rocks, and other obstacles. They can also swim forward with one flipper while paddling backward with the other, letting them turn with more precision. They can often be seen swimming upside down, possibly to help them see the bottom of the river better. Despite their small eyes they have good sight above and underwater and have no trouble navigating the Amazon’s muddy waters to catch their prey thanks to an excellent sense of echolocation.
Fact 5. The Amazon pink river dolphin is considered a mythical creature
The Amazon pink river dolphin is the subject of many South American folklore, not all benevolent. One such legend claims that the dolphins morph into handsome men known as “boto encantado” to seduce and impregnate womenfolk by night. Another claims that if you go swimming alone, the dolphins may whisk you away to a magical underwater city, which has led to the local fear of going near the water between dusk and dawn, or entering water bodies solo. Some also believe them to be the guardians of the Amazon manatees, so those who wish to see a manatee must first reconcile with the pink dolphin. It is considered bad luck to harm the dolphins, and even worse luck to eat them.
In the Peruvian Amazon, the status of the pink river dolphin as a semi-magical being may have helped protect the species by encouraging local communities to treat them well and preserve their numbers. Unfortunately, other threats such as environmental pollution, by-catch, and deliberate killing of dolphins for bait in fisheries still pose a threat. The most recent assessment by the IUCN Red List in 2018 categorizes the species as “endangered” as evidence suggests its total population size has decreased 50% or more over a period of 75 years. That same year, the Peruvian Government approved the ‘National Action Plan for the Conservation of River Dolphins and the Amazonian Manatee’ — a critical step in the conservation of these species integrating scientific research such as ecological and population studies.
The Vaquita is a small harbor porpoise native to a very small area in the extreme northern part of the Gulf of California, Mexico. It is the smallest known Cetacean (whale, dolphin, or porpoise) alive today, reaching lengths of only 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) and weights of not much more than 100 pounds (45 kg). In addition, unlike most dolphins, the Vaquita has almost no discernible beak. Among the Cetaceans, Vaquitas reach sexual maturity relatively quickly and begin reproducing at age 3-6 years old.
Reproductive output, however, is quite low – with females giving birth to only one calf, every other year – and the gestation period is 11 months, longer than most land mammals, including humans. Lifespan is also low, with individuals likely living no longer than approximately 25 years. Vaquitas are predatory and eat a variety of Gulf of California fishes, squids, and crustaceans. They are extremely shy and are therefore very difficult for scientists to study in their natural habitat. Much of our knowledge of vaquitas is a result of their being captured as bycatch in local net fisheries.
The vaquita has the dubious distinction of being considered the “most endangered Cetacean” on the planet. Even though it has never been targeted directly by hunters (like many of the large whales and dolphins), accidental capture in net fisheries is a significant threat to continued survival of the vaquita as a species. With newest estimates of population size ranging from only 95-100 mature individuals and accidental deaths approximated at 30-80 individuals (including many juveniles) per year, the vaquita is in serious danger of becoming extinct. Habitat alteration and marine pollution are also potential threats to its survival, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the vaquita on its list of critically endangered species – it is very highly vulnerable to extinction. The Mexican government has recently taken steps to protect the vaquita and other endangered species in the Gulf of California, but without continued efforts from conservation organizations, like Oceana, the vaquita may be lost.
5. Snow Leopard
Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. They scale the great, steep slopes of mountains in Central Asia with ease, blending into the landscape. But these majestic and elusive cats face many threats including habitat loss and degradation from climate change and human encroachment, retaliatory killings resulting from human-wildlife conflict, reduced prey, and poaching.WWF works to reduce human-wildlife conflict, increase anti-poaching efforts, and protect the fragile snow leopard habitat.
Snow leopards have thick grey and yellow-tinged fur, with solid spots on their head, neck and lower limbs and rosettes over the rest of the body. Rosettes are large rings enclosing smaller spots. WWF relies on spot patterns to identify individual snow leopards when conducting camera trap research. Snow leopards also have very long, thick tails that they use for balancing on rocks and wrapping around their bodies for protection from the cold. Their short forelimbs and long hind limbs make them very agile, and they can jump as much as 50 feet in length. They also have large, furry paws that act as both snowshoes and padding on sharp rocks.
Snow leopards are known as the “ghost of the mountains” because of their elusive nature. In addition to being very shy, the coloring of their coats make them difficult to see against the snowy environment they live in. Snow leopards are solitary creatures—since it is so rare to see two snow leopards together, there actually is no term for a group of snow leopards.
What are the biggest threats to Snow Leopards today?
Sadly, hunting, habitat loss, retaliatory killings as a result of human-wildlife conflict, poaching and climate change are the biggest threats that snow leopards face. Snow leopard habitat range continues to decline from human settlement and increased use of grazing space. Climate change poses perhaps the greatest long-term threat to snow leopards. Impacts from climate change could result in a loss of up to 30% of the snow leopard habitat in the Himalayas alone.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these amazing and incredibly rare animals around the globe! If you ever run into one in the wild be sure to let us know, we would love to hear your story! Other blogs which may really interest you include:
There are many organisations which focus on the protection of these animals and many other animals which are endangered. If you’d like to find out more have a look at the following sites below: