10 Rarest Animals in the World

| |

Animals are loved by nearly everyone in the world, yet humans are the biggest threat to their survival. Every single one of the animals on this list is not only rare, but also critically endangered or “just” endangered. The low population of these rare animals is primarily due to habitat loss, hunting, or accidental death caused by human activities. While conservationists have successfully bred some of these animals, others are not so lucky and are on the brink of complete extinction. Hopefully, with more awareness, including the information on this list, we can see some of these rare animals recover in the future.

As of September 2019, the information about the population estimates of these animals is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed in the future.

    1. Black-footed Ferret
    2. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: 300 to 400 in the wild; many bred in captivity and released to the wild each year
      Location: Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana, USA; previously native to the Great Plains of North America
      Current Conservation Status: Endangered
      Scientific Name: Mustela nigripes
      Black-footed Ferret
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via USFWS Mountain-Prairie

      The Black-footed Ferret is often touted as a conservation success story as the species has come back from extinction status twice through the efforts of conservationists. Originally, the Black-footed Ferret was native to the Great Plains of North America and ranged from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

      However, the population of the Black-footed Ferret sharply declined throughout the 20th century and was declared extinct in 1979. A few years later, in 1981, the Black-footed Ferret was re-discovered by a dog in Wyoming. That remaining population only survived until 1987 and the Black-footed Ferret was extinct in the wild again. Since then, a captive breeding program was launched by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and thousands of Black-footed Ferrets were re-released in Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana throughout the last few decades. While, the program has mostly been a success, recent updates only put the wild Black-footed Ferret population between 300 to 400 individuals.

      Did You Know?

      Black-footed Ferrets primarily hunt prairie dogs and because of their dependence on the other species, the population of Black-footed Ferrets is heavily impacted by the wild population of prairie dogs, which has also been in decline in recent years.


    3. Addax
    4. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: between 30 to 90 in the wild (possibly as few as three); more than 2,000 in captivity
      Location: Sahara Desert
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Addax nasomaculatus
      Addax
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Haytem93

      The Addax or white antelope is on the verge of extinction in its wild habitat of the Sahara Desert, with the size of the wild population ranging from 30 to 90 mature individuals. However, there are a number of successful breeding programs around the world, and while you most likely won’t catch a glimpse of an Addax in the wild, you might just see one of the thousands in captivity at your local zoo.

      In the past, the Addax was common in North Africa, native to Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and the Western Sahara. Wild Addax populations have been in severe decline due to unregulated hunting. In recent years, with the success of breeding programs, Addax have been reintroduced to Morocco and Tunisia on wildlife preserves.

      Did You Know?

      Addaxes only excrete dry feces and concentrated urine because they use every bit of water that they eat.


    5. Northern Bald Ibis
    6. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: less than 250 in the wild; over 1,000 in captivity
      Location: Southern Morocco and Syria; previously also found throughout Europe, North Africa, and other parts of the Middle East
      Current Conservation Status: Endangered
      Scientific Name: Geronticus eremita
      Northern Bald Ibis
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Charles J Sharp

      The Northern Bald Ibis is one of the rarest birds in the world, with less than 250 mature individuals remaining in the wild. For several decades, the Northern Bald Ibis was considered critically endangered, but successful conservation efforts over recent years has helped downgrade the species status to endangered – there are over 1,000 Northern Bald Ibises in captivity.

      Today, most of the wild population of Northern Bald Ibises live in Morocco with a few possibly left alive in Syria. The Northern Bald Ibis has been regionally extinct in Europe for over 500 years, but reintroduction programs are currently underway.

      Did You Know?

      The Northern Bald Ibis is an ancient bird species with fossils dating to the Holocene (c.10,000 years ago), middle Pleistocene (c. 900,000 years ago), and even as far back as Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary (c. 1.8 million years ago).


    7. Cross River Gorilla
    8. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: less than 250 in the wild; one known in captivity
      Location: Forested hills and mountains of the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of the Cross River (Nigeria)
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Gorilla gorilla diehli
      Cross River Gorilla
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Julielangford

      While all Gorilla and species are vulnerable, the Cross River Gorilla is unfortunately the most endangered great ape in the world. Unfortunately, the Cross River Gorilla, which was first noted in 1907, was largely ignored until it was too late (in 1987) and its population numbers were already low. Today, it is estimated that there are less than 250 Cross River Gorillas in the wild and only one known to be in captivity.

      The biggest threat to the survival of the Cross River Gorilla is habitat loss due to human activities. Also, the Cross River Gorilla is threatened by bushmeat hunting by locals. Due to the hunting, Cross River Gorillas are very fearful of humans and are very rarely observed.

      Did You Know?

      Cross River Gorillas live in small scattered groups that rarely, if ever, interact with one another, which has led to inbreeding. This results in a loss of genetic diversity and weaker gene pool and also negatively impacts the already small population of Cross River Gorillas.


    9. Saola
    10. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: Unknown for sure – population estimates range from 25 to 700, but believed to be actually fewer than 250; none in captivity
      Location: Annamite Range of Vietnam and Laos
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
      Saola
      photo source: IUCN Red List via William Robichaud

      Of all the animals on this list, none are as mysterious as the Saola, which has been aptly dubbed the “Asian Unicorn.” So little is known about the Saola that there is no real data on the elusive animal’s current population. Because the Saola has only been seen in the wild a handful of times since its remains were first discovered in 1992, population estimates wildly vary from as little as 25 individuals to as many as 750. However, researchers believe that the Saola population is much lower, and most likely less than 250.

      Researchers have tried to keep Saolas in captivity a few times, but each of these captive Saolas eventually died. This has led conservationists to believe that Saolas cannot survive captivity and thus a breeding program can’t be established.

      Did You Know?

      Most of the information known about the Saola comes from William G. Robichaud, who managed to keep a female Saola in captivity for about 15 days before she died of unknown causes. According to Robichaud’s observations, the Saola was not afraid of humans, only dogs.


    11. Amur Leopard
    12. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: less than 100 in the wild; about 170 to 180 in captivity
      Location: Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Panthera pardus orientalis
      Amur Leopard
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via William Warby

      While many big cat species are facing declining numbers around the world, one of the rarest and most endangered is the Amur Leopard. It is estimated that there are less than 100 individuals (about 84 to be more exact) left in the wild. Amur Leopards mostly reside in the Amur River basin of eastern Russia with a few scattered in the northern part of China.

      Amur Leopards have relatively long lifespans, living for about 10 to 15 years in the wild and 20+ years in captivity. Unfortunately, like all the animals on this list, the Amur Leopard population faces many threats, including habitat destruction, illegal poaching, conflicts with humans, and a lack of genetic variation – since there are so few Amur Leopards left, there is a lot of inbreeding, which results in weaker offspring.

      Did You Know?

      The rosettes or spots on Amur Leopards are larger, more widely spaced, and have thicker black borders than those found on the other species of leopards.


    13. Philippine Crocodile
    14. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: less than 100 in the wild; very few in captivity
      Location: fragmented habitats on the islands of Dalupiri, Luzon and Mindanao in the Philippines
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Crocodylus mindorensis
      Philippine Crocodile
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Vassil

      The Philippine Crocodile is considered to be the most threatened crocodile species in the world, with fewer than 100 left in the wild and very few in captivity. In the past, the Philippine Crocodile was found all across the island nation, but currently only found in small, fragmented habitats on the islands of Dalupiri, Luzon, and Mindanao. The Philippine Crocodile population has been severely impacted by hunting and habitat destruction.

      Another thing hurting the Philippine Crocodile is public perception. The crocodiles have been labeled as man killers/eaters by the local populace and have been killed for this negative view. However, in recent years, conservationists have been working to change public perception and have successfully bred and released Philippine Crocodiles into protected habitat sites.

      Did You Know?

      Killing a Philippine Crocodile is illegal and comes with a maximum fine of of ₱100,000 (equivalent to about $2,500).


    15. Sumatran Rhino
    16. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: less than 100 in the wild; very few in captivity
      Location: Sumatra and Borneo (used to be found in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, other parts of Indonesia, and China
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
      Sumatran Rhino
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Alan (wAlanb)

      The Sumatran Rhino or the Asian Two-horned Rhino is recognizable by its hairy appearance is the rarest of the five remaining species of rhinoceros. Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 100 Sumatran Rhinos in the wild, with some saying there could be as little as 30 wild Sumatran Rhinos left.

      It is believed that Sumatran Rhinos have been a fairly vulnerable species for the past 9,000 years when a climate shift took place in their natural habitat. Since then, Sumatran Rhinos have failed to bounce back and face even more threats today. While there has been some success with breeding Sumatran Rhinos in captivity, in general, they have a hard time surviving outside of their natural ecosystem. Currently, there are still a few captive Sumatran Rhinos.

      Did You Know?

      Scientists believe that the Sumatran Rhino is the most primitive (oldest) rhino species because of its hair and other ancient features. Also, the Sumatran Rhino is the closest living relative to the woolly rhinoceros that lived in the frigid lands of Europe and Asia during the Ice Age.


    17. South China Tiger
    18. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: believed to be extinct in the wild; less than 100 in captivity
      Location: Southern China
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Panthera tigris tigri
      South China Tiger
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons


      The South China Tiger (also known as the Amoy tiger, South Chinese, Chinese and Xiamen tiger) is unfortunately the most threatened and vulnerable tiger species in the world. Scientists have declared that the South China Tiger is functionally extinct in the wild and has not been seen outside of captivity in more than 25 years.

      While there are no wild South China Tigers left, thankfully there are about a hundred or so in captivity as part of breeding programs in China. In 2007, the first South China Tiger was born outside of China at the private reserve known as Laohu Valley Reserve in South Africa. More tigers have been born at Laohu Valley since then.

      Did You Know?

      There is genetic evidence that suggests that a majority of the captive South China Tigers are not “pure” and that they had been cross-bred with other subspecies of tigers.


    19. Vaquita
    20. Estimated Number of Mature Individuals: about 10 in the wild (possibly between 6 and 22); none in captivity
      Location: Northern part of the Gulf of California
      Current Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
      Scientific Name: Phocoena sinus
      Vaquita
      photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Paula Olsen

      The Vaquita is currently the rarest animal in the world, and quite possibly the most endangered, with only about 10 individuals left in the wild. That estimate comes from a report published by the IUCN in early 2019 that stated that only about 10 vaquitas remained alive in 2018, as per an acoustic monitoring program conducted in the Gulf, though there is a 95% chance they number between 6 and 22.

      Since the Vaquita was first discovered in 1958, its numbers have always been pretty low. Vaquitas are the smallest species of porpoise and easily get caught in gillnets (nets that catch fish by their gills) used by illegal fishing operations. Also Vaquitas have such a small population because they are only found in one area of the world, the northern part of the Gulf of California. Additionally, there are no Vaquita in captivity and there is currently no successful breeding program to help bring their numbers back up.

      Did You Know?

      While not much is known about the Vaquita, the maximum known lifespan of an individual Vaquita was a female who lived 21 years.

Previous

10 Rarest Myers Briggs Personality Types

8 Rarest Baseball Cards in History

Next

Leave a Comment