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Top 10 Extraordinary Rare Animals

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Shane Fraser These are the needles in Earth’s haystack. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rarest animals in the world. For this list, we’re looking at animals that are extremely hard to find in the wild, for mostly unfortunate reasons. Special thanks to our users Calvin Zhang for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Shane Fraser

Top 10 Rarest Animals


These are the needles in Earth’s haystack. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 rarest animals in the world.

For this list, we’re looking at animals that are extremely hard to find in the wild, for mostly unfortunate reasons. While some are rare because of their geography, the vast majority have been pushed to near-extinction and thus have an atrophied population. For that reason, we hope much of this list is void in the near future.

#10: Vaquita

The vaquita is a species of small porpoise that resides in the Gulf of California. It is considered the “world’s most rare marine mammal” due to its tiny geographic range and serious loss in population from commercial fishing methods like gill netting. In 1997, just over 500 vaquitas were thought to be left in the world; by 2014 that number was 100, and by 2016 there are estimated to be as few as 60—with accidental netting accounting for the annual 20 percent drop in population. It’s estimated that within five years’ time, the intelligent and serene vaquita will be completely extinct—that is unless a miracle conservation effort is made. 

#9: Northern Bald Ibis

This large, long-billed bird once occupied a giant slab of the Middle East, inhabiting dozens of countries on multiple continents - but that is far from the current case. The birds endured regional extinction; first in Europe, then in countries like Sudan, Turkey, Israel, and most recently Syria, and now they are limited to one natural breeding population in Morocco. Hunting, disease, and habitat loss brought the population down to somewhere near 200-250, but captive breeding has since doubled that number. Breeding and reintroduction programs are giving the birds a fighting chance, and with luck they could take back a small chunk of their former range. 

#8: Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth

Discovered on a small Panamanian island in 2001, the pygmy three-toed sloth has one of the smallest habitat ranges of any mammal. The entire species lives in a 1.7 square mile area of the island, roosting exclusively in the red mangrove trees. Being the victim of insular dwarfism and a genetic bottleneck, the sloths split from their original population when the island split from the mainland, and so became a genetically independent species whose isolation and limited range decreased their size and survivability. There are an estimated 79 dwarf sloths left on the island, and the species is categorized as critically endangered – and critically adorable.

#7: Sumatran Rhinoceros

What these rhinos have gone through could be called a genocide... For absurd reasons—that we can attribute to human narcissism—rhinos have been massacred in surreal numbers and ways, reducing the population to fragments. The Sumatran rhino is one of the primary victims, mostly due to illegal poaching. Living continuously for an estimated 15 million years, the Sumatran is considered to be the oldest species of rhino. Hundreds of thousands roamed several countries before persecution, but that has been reduced to less than 100 individuals in a small range of Sumatra. This actually pales in comparison to the Javan rhino, with 60 individuals, and the Northern White rhino, with three—all of which are too old to breed.

#6: Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

As one of the rarest land mammals in the world, the Northern hairy-nosed wombat exists in an area of just over 1 square mile in Queensland, Northeast Australia. With a range that once encompassed hundreds of thousands of miles, the wombat’s demise seems almost apocalyptic. That’s not quite the case, as there are dozens of natural reasons for its decimation, though diseases like mange and toxoplasmosis are accountable. Fortunately for the cute marsupials, serious conservation efforts were undertaken, which increased the population from 30 in the 1970s to over 200 today. But, there’s still a long way to go.

#5: Megamouth Shark

Reaching 18 feet long and swimming at depths of 500 feet, the nightmare-inducing megamouth shark lived in total secrecy until its 1976 discovery. The animal had become entangled in the anchor of a US Navy ship off the coast of Hawaii, and its eventual examination resulted in a collective cheer for scientists, as few late-20th century discoveries had been so monumental. Including the original, there had been only 61 confirmed specimens of the megamouth found as of January 2015. And catching them on video is even MORE rare–just three have been videotaped in the wild.

#4: Florida Panther

The Florida panther, aside from being an NHL team, is a subspecies of the common cougar. Separated from the general pack, the panthers made their own ecological niche in the Florida everglades, and are the only known breeding population of cougars in the Eastern U.S. However, that very nearly ended 30 years ago. Hunting and habitat loss drove the already inconspicuous panthers into obscurity, with only 20 mature individuals existing in the wild in the 1970s. With so few left, the gene pool was weak, so reproduction was unsuccessful or problematic. Fearing a total annihilation, scientists mixed healthy Texan cougars into the population, which improved the genetic diversity and jumpstarted breeding. Today, there are an estimated 180 Florida panthers in the wild, and the species remains critically endangered.

#3: Hainan Black-Crested Gibbon

As another example of island segregation, the black-crested-gibbon inhabits the Hainan Island off the coast of China. Unlike the pygmy three-toed sloth, the gibbons managed to thrive on their own, reaching a dense and stable population of 2000 during the 1950s. However, deforestation in the form of rubber and paper harvesting has decreased the population so severely that the gibbons are in the midst of an existential emergency. Fewer than 30 gibbons were found in the latest census, meaning there likely aren’t enough individuals for the species to propagate naturally. They’ll either die from genetic degradation, or human ingenuity will save the world’s rarest primate. We hope it’s the latter. 

#2: Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

The Yangtze softshell turtle is so rare, in fact, that none exist in the wild. This cannot be 100% confirmed, of course, but the last wild sighting was in 1998, and it hasn’t been for lack of trying. As the name says, this turtle made its home in the Yangtze River in Asia, a heavily disturbed and polluted river that has claimed its share of species, including the now-extinct Yangtze River dolphin. Considered the largest freshwater turtle in the world, the giant softshell has been pushed to the edge of existence through hunting, poisoning, and habitat destruction. Just three individuals are left on the planet, and attempted breeding has thus far been futile.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions: 

- Snow Leopard

- Kakapo 

- Nelson’s Small-Eared Shrew 

- Angonoka Tortoise

-  Cuban Greater Funnel-Eared Bat 

#1: Giant Squid

Occupying the lightless abyss of the deepest oceans, the giant squid is a legend for its rarity. For thousands of years, people reported tentacle sea monsters, and it wasn’t until 1857 that the monsters’ true identity was revealed. A zoologist named Japetus Steenstrup studied dead specimens and made the first formal classification of the animal, calling it the giant squid. After such a revelation, the search was on to document a live one, but we had to wait another 150 years. By the turn of the 21st century, the giant squid remained the only known large animal to have never been photographed alive. That changed in 2002 when a squid was caught and photographed near the surface, and 10 years later the first video of a giant squid in its natural habitat was taken. To this day, that remains the only wild giant squid we’ve ever seen in motion. 

Do you agree with our list? Which rare animal are you most passionate about? For more inconspicuous Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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