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Eight Endangered Animals You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

A list of endangered animals for you to try to find on your travels.

Endangered animal

Many of the most endangered animals in the world are also the least known and understood. Partially because there are so few of these animals, they tend to be relatively obscure and hard for scientists to study. This impacts conservation efforts and makes it difficult to identify how to breed captive individuals. While pandas, whales, and elephants may be the beautiful and majestic faces of conservation, many of the lesser-known and obscure animals of the world are in much greater danger.

Conservation funding is often focused unduly on the large, visible, and attractive mammals of the world and other animals are often neglected. Funding from donations is much greater for large well-known species compared with those seen as less important. However, scientists know that every animal has an important role to play in its ecology, and the loss of any species can set up unexpected chain reactions that spread to other parts of the ecosystem. 

Tooth-Billed Pigeon

The tooth-filled pigeon is a bird from Samoa which is one of the most endangered birds of the world. It is closely related to the extinct dodo and has a sharply hooked bill which it uses to cut open tough seed cases. Not much is known about the pigeon or how it lives. It is unknown exactly how many still exist, but the estimations are under 250 individuals. Habitat loss and damage from cyclones are among the threats to these birds.

Red River Giant Softshell Turtle

The Red River giant softshell turtle, also known as the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, is perhaps the rarest animal on Earth. It is also the largest freshwater turtle and can weigh over 400 lb. This turtle is native to China and nearby areas in Eastern Asia. Due to overhunting, habitat destruction, and pollution, the Red River giant softshell turtle population has dwindled to only a few individuals. Experts have found that these individuals do not live near each other. Efforts are being made to find more turtles with the hope of being able to move them into the same location or breed them in captivity.


The vaquita is a small porpoise found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California. The vaquita is only around 5 ft long and has a very limited habitat. It is the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and it is estimated that only 10 to 20 remain. The largest threat to the vaquita is gillnet fishing, one of the area’s main industries. While the fishermen in the area are not intentionally catching vaquita, they do occasionally get tangled in nets. The Mexican government has attempted to ban gillnet fishing, but the illegal use of these nets continues.


The gharial is a member of the crocodilian family which is distinguished by its incredibly narrow snout and long sharp interlocking teeth. It is the largest of all crocodilians and can grow up to 20 feet long. The main diet of the gharial is fish, and it is native to Southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan. It is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss among other causes. Reintroduction efforts in India were unsuccessful in slowing the decline of the species and efforts have changed to education, habitat restoration, and protection.


The kakapo is an unusual bird native to New Zealand. It is in the parrot family but is unique in that it is flightless and the heaviest member of the family. Kakapos are excellent climbers and walkers and can safely jump off tall trees. One of the defense tactics of this bird is to freeze when it is threatened, which made it easy prey to the Māori and European settlers, and it was haunted nearly to extinction. Conservation efforts began in the late 19th century but only 51 individuals were left in 1995. Trapping and breeding programs have increased the number of kakapos to over 200.


The saola is an endangered antelope-like animal from Eastern Asia. Although it looks like an antelope, it is actually more closely related to cattle. This animal was discovered in 1992 and was the first large mammal to be discovered by science in more than 50 years. The saola is small, only about 33 inches tall, and lives in the mountains of Vietnam and Laos. It is considered critically endangered, and it is estimated that there are only about 750 in the wild.

Darwin’s Fox

The Darwin’s Fox is a dark gray fox from Chile which was first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1834. It is considered to be a very important species in its ecological nitch. It is listed as endangered and there are around 600 known individuals. Domestic dogs are one of the greatest threats to the Darwin’s Fox. 

Vojvodina Blind Mole Rat

The Vojvadina blind mole rat is an extremely rare mammal from Europe. It is a truly blind animal with skin over its eyes, and it lives nearly completely underground. It has gray fur, hardly any tail, and no external ears. These mole rats are very rare, with only about 400 in existence. Conservation efforts include capturing and relocating animals to safer locations.


All endangered animals need coordinated conservation plans, funding, and education efforts. While the more popular animals are recovering, many of the lesser-known and less-loved species of our world linger on the brink of extinction.

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