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Rare Animals: 17 Rarest Animals Species (Critically Endangered)

So, we all know about rare animals like the giant panda, but how many people know about the vaquita? Well, prepare to learn some more!

If you’re curious to learn about the world’s rarest animals and what makes them unique, this guide will give you the low-down!

By reading this article, you’ll learn about rare animals whose existence will undoubtedly surprise you!

Not only will this article make you sound like the most intelligent person at any party, but you’ll also learn about the sad reality of animals facing extinction. 

After all, more awareness means that people are more likely to donate to conservation efforts and adopt sustainable habits.

“When we see it, we understand it. When we understand it, we care about it. And when we care about it, we will do something to save it.”

Why Are These Animals Rare?

Unfortunately, over 41,000 species are on the brink of extinction, mostly because of habitat loss or poaching.

That happens because our society is increasingly resource-intensive, and that shrinks the natural spaces these animal species would live.

In a 2022 Living Planet Report, scientists assessed wildlife population has decreased by 69% since 1970—that’s a lot!

Unsustainable human-led activities are endangering more and more species, making the number of rare animals increase. Maybe future generations won’t even know what a mountain gorilla is.

Did you know? Giant pandas were once listed as an endangered species, but due to conservation efforts, that has recently been upgraded to “vulnerable” status. Yay!

What Are Rare Animals Exactly?

While ‘rare animals’ isn’t necessarily a category on the IUCN Red List, when we say ‘rare animals,’ we mean critically endangered animals, so they are in extremely high danger of extirpation.

The IUCN Red List classifies animals at high risk of global extinction, dividing them into nine categories:

  • Not Evaluated – well, it says it all.
  • Data Deficient – not enough info to make an assessment of the risk of extinction.
  • Least Concern – the species does not qualify as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened.
  • Near Threatened – the species is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
  • Vulnerable – the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Endangered – the species is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Critically Endangered – the species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Extinct in the Wild – the species is extinct in the wild, and the only alive individuals are in captivity.
  • Extinct – no reasonable doubt the species is extinct.

17 Rare Animals According to the IUCN Red List

Here are 17 of the rarest animals in the world.

1. Kakapo

Kakapo Parrot Endemic to New Zealand

The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is a flightless yellow-green type of parrot native to a handful of small islands off New Zealand’s coast.

This rare species is known for its bizarre features, such as its owl-like beak, bright blue feet, stout body, and small wingspan, which makes the kakapo a standout amongst other parrots!

At the moment, there are only a few hundred kakapos left in their natural habitat putting these rare animals in danger of extinction, according to the IUCN.

The decrease in population size has mainly occurred because of the introduction of invasive species, such as cats and stoats, to the kakapo’s habitat.

2. Darwin’s Frog

Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) is endemic to Chile and Argentina and was first discovered by famed naturalist Charles Darwin in the 1830s.

These non-game animals tend to live in wooded regions, and their skin color has been noted to change to green to camouflage better in greener areas.

This rare amphibian is known for its weird way of gestating eggs. Male Darwin’s frog will carry frogs about to hatch eggs in his vocal sac until they are self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, the Northern Darwin’s frog is extinct, and only the endangered Southern Darwin’s Frog remains.

3. Amur Leopard

Amur leopard, powerful motley big cat looks straight through the eyes of a predator

This incredibly gorgeous rare mammal, the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), is instantly recognizable due to its beautiful coat dotted with the distinctive black rosettes seen in all leopards.

In addition, their luxuriously thick fur means that the Amur leopard is perfectly adapted to its habitat. This Asian wild cat can be found in North-eastern China, Russia, and North Korea.

The Amur leopard is truly a powerhouse of an animal. They have been reported to jump up to 10ft high, run up to 40 mph and hunt Amur elk which are several times larger than they are.

Unfortunately, due to fur trapping, poaching, and habitat loss, only several hundred of these rare animals are left.

4. Tapanuli Orangutan

Female Tapanuli orangutan holding a baby next to her breast

Tapanuli orangutans (Pongo tapanuliensis) can be found in southern Tapanuli, located in Sumatra, a large island in Southeast Asia.

These intelligent animals are known for their long, downy reddish-orange fur and for the male’s physical tendency to have large, dinner plate-like faces with thick cheek pads.

Tapanuli orangutans are closely related to the Sumatran orangutan, which can be found in the northwestern region of Sumatra. 

However, these rare primates were only identified as distinct species through genetic testing in 2017. Currently, their wild population seems to be shrinking as there are estimated to be less than 800 left.

5. Greater Bamboo Lemur

Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) resting on a tree

The greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) is native to Madagascar. Like its title, it’s also the largest lemur to eat, mostly bamboo shoots and leaves weighing up to 5 lbs.

They are characterized by their long flexible tails, white tufts of fur on their ears, and reddish-brown eyes.

As a result of predation by bush pigs, birds of prey, fossa, and other apex predators, in combination with bamboo logging and slingshot hunting, the greater bamboo lemur has been granted the title of critically endangered. They are assumed to have fewer than 500 members.

6. Hainan Gibbon

Pair of northern white-cheeked gibbons hugging

Hainan gibbons (Nomascus hainanus) are known for their coats which are color-coded according to sex, with males and females having black and gold fur, respectively.

They are also famous for serenading their mates and were originally native to the ancient forests of Hainan Island off China’s coast.

However, Hainan gibbons are now more known for their tiny population of only a couple of dozens, according to the IUCN.

Hunting, loss of forest habitat, and habitat loss from the 20th century onwards devastated the species’ numbers.

Population loss amongst the Hainan gibbons can also be attributed to the fact that the females of these rare animals are only able to have one baby every two years, meaning that the species is likely to face extinction soon.

7. Red Wolf

Red Wolf in forest

Much like its name, the red wolf is a gray wolf subspecies whose fur is tinged with a stunning red hue.

Known by its scientific name Canis rufus, the red wolf is thought to be a hybrid offspring of coyotes and wolves.

Red wolves were initially found in a range from Texas to as far north as southern Ontario, with less than 260 remaining in North Carolina. 

However, their natural range decreased drastically because of rapid habitat loss and widespread culling of local predator species.

8. Philippine Crocodile

Philippine crocodile portrait

Philippine crocodiles (Crocodylus mindorensis) can be identified by their snouts which are unusually stubby for a crocodile, as well as their thick back plating.

As their name suggests, these rare reptiles can only be found in the Philippines and are found in freshwater bodies such as rivers.

This species has suffered a tremendous dip in numbers due to unsustainable fishing practices among communities and industries. 

These include using dynamite to catch fish and killing the crocodiles when they are by-catch. Consequentially, their population is estimated to be as few as one hundred.

9. Sumatran Rhino

Sumatran Rhinoceros group

The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), one of the rarest animals, is the only Rhino species native to Asia with two horns.

When looking at it, the Sumatran rhino’s unusually long, shaggy hair, which is tinted a reddish-brown color, certainly stands out! In addition, their stout, hippo-like physique can lead to some weighing up to 2000 lbs!

These elusive animals are found in Sumatra’s rainforests of varying altitudes and wetlands. Interestingly, Sumatran rhinos are some of the closest relatives to Wooly Mammoths. 

And sadly, like the Woolly Mammoth, they are facing extinction with only 80 members left.

10. Addax

Addax, the white antelope

If any animal deserves the title of “the World’s Hardiest Animal,” it should be the Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)!

These antelopes can be located in the Sahara, where their coat colors change with the seasons, especially in summer, when their coat becomes white to reflect sunlight.

Their spiraled horns make this species one of the coolest-looking rare animals. 

In fact, the Addax owes its name to a word in Arabic that translates to “an animal with horns that are crooked.” 

Unfortunately, due to extensive hunting, only a few hundred Addax are left.

11. Cross River Gorilla

Portrait of the cross river gorilla

The rare Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) can be located in humid rainforests near one of the major tributaries of the Cross River. They are situated on both sides of the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.

They are a subspecies of the more well-known Western gorillas and are similar in stature and size.

Weighing up to 400 lbs, the Cross River gorilla eats an enormous quantity of tree bark, leaves, and fruit daily.

Unfortunately, with the increasing size of grasslands caused by human encroachment, viral outbreaks, the illicit pet trade, and hunting, there are fewer than 250 Cross River gorillas remaining.

12. Javan Rhino

Javan rhino eating

As one of the rarest species, the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is only native to the Indonesian island of Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park.

They live in similar habitats to the Sumatran Rhino. These sedentary animals eat massive quantities of vegetation; consequentially, these animals can get up to 5000 lbs!

The Javan Rhino used to live in habits in India and Vietnam. 

However, due to poaching, they can only be found in Java. In fact, officially, the Indonesian government estimates that there are only 76 members left.

13. Cuban Greater Funnel-Eared Bat

Cuban greater funnel eared bat closeup
Cuban greater funnel-eared bat by Carolina Soto Navarro/ZSL

This little bat (Natalus primus) is only native to one cave, Cueva La Barca, in Cuba. However, the Cuban Greater Funnel-eared bat is part of a family of bats found in Caves in most of the Caribbean.

These little animals are known for their gigantic ears and sand-colored fur.

Like most bats, the Cuban Greater Funnel-eared bat is relatively tiny in size, with most weighing around 0. 35 ounces. 

And like its teeny size, the population is tiny too, with only a few hundred bats left. The population is declining due to habitat loss and because the bats have a small habitat range.

14. Saola

Saola – Silviculture (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Saolas (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) are one of the world’s rarest mammals. These rare animals are native to evergreen forests in the Laotian and Vietnamese Annamite mountains. 

Interestingly, it was only in 1992 that Saolas were discovered!

Their long, pointed horns parallel to each other, and white facial markings are their trademark. In fact, this feature is used to attract mates. 

Unfortunately, the saola is exceptionally rare, with only 250 saolas remaining.

15. Ili Pika

Ili Pika on mountain
Ili Pika by Li Weidong

This rare mammal is a real-life teddy bear with a small furry body and round ears. Ili pikas (Ochotona iliensis) are native to the Tianshan mountains of Northwestern China.

The ili pika was first spotted in 1983 and tended to live in caves, and high cliff faces several thousand feet above the ground.

Ili pikas are tiny, too, as they only weigh around 8 ounces at the largest. 

As a result, they are pretty mysterious to researchers and have only been spotted on camera a handful of times. Currently, there are less than 1,000 of these rare animals left.

16. Vaquita

Vaquita porpoise
Photo by Paula Olson, NOAA – Public Domain

Only discovered in 1958, the vaquita dolphin (Phocoena sinus) is possibly the world’s rarest animal, with only 10 members left.

The darkened patches around its lips and eyes make this species unique too! They are only found in the northern parts of the Gulf of California in Baja.

Vaquitas are the smallest cetaceans, a group comprised of porpoises, dolphins, and whales. They are only about 5ft long from snout to tail and weigh about 90 lbs on average.

Unfortunately, the Vaquitas numbers have been drastically reduced due to water pollution and being caught as by-catch.

17. Hector’s Dolphin

Hector's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori), the world's smallest and rarest marine dolphin

Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori), another rare cetacean, describes one of four dolphin species of the genus Cephalorhynchus. It has two subspecies, the Māui dolphin and the South Island dolphin.

These uncommon animals can both be found in New Zealand. These dolphins are also tiny, with the smallest subspecies, the South Island Hector’s dolphin, weighing around 90 to 125 lbs.

These rare fish feed on small vertebrate animals they can find in the ocean.

These dolphins have skin comprised of varying shades of gray and have been indicated to have a lifespan of over 20 years old in the wild. 

Currently, the Māui subspecies is the rarest, with only 63 members, whereas the South Island species has nearly 15,000.

More Critically Endangered Animals

Black rhino – the currently left population is found in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Sunda island tiger – these wild animals are found in Southeast Asia.

Mountain gorillas – Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Yangtze Finless Porpoise – this porpoise lives in the Yangtze River in China.

African forest elephant – as one of the big five animals, forest elephants are found in West and Central Africa.

Sumatran orangutan – found only on the island of Sumatra.

Hawksbill turtle – nearshore tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

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17 Rare Animals According to the IUCN Red List

1. Kakapo

2. Darwin’s Frog

3. Amur Leopard

4. Tapanuli Orangutan

5. Greater Bamboo Lemur

6. Hainan Gibbon

7. Red Wolf

8. Philippine Crocodile

9. Sumatran Rhino

10. Addax

11. Cross River Gorilla

12. Javan Rhino

13. Cuban Greater Funnel-Eared Bat

14. Saola

15. Ili Pika

16. Vaquita

17. Hector’s Dolphin