The internet is no stranger to animal pictures, and though we do love the odd feline GIF and dog selfie, we’re also obsessed with discovering the new. After all, the range of species out there is as large as the world in which they inhabit. Some are big, some are small, some are normal and some are extremely strange, but we don’t judge, so we’ve rounded up a few of the more unique animals to add to your wildlife-spotting bucket-list.
Smaller than its African cousin but no less spectacular, the Asiatic lion rules king across the Gir National Park in Western Gujarat, India. With a population once spanning as far as Persia, this proud and majestic specimen has found sole refuge in a kingdom shared with 2,375 distinct species of fauna including mongoose, leopards and hyenas, and its numbers are slowly increasing. This sprawling sanctuary of open forest and dry scrub-land is nestled in South Gujarat, just 43km from the veneered temple of Shiva at Somnath.
Amazonian River Dolphin
Known as a Boto by the locals, the Amazonian River Dolphin is revered in river folk custom for its pink skin and long beak, playing the role of a seductive shapeshifter. The stretches of meandering South American water are ideal for this pink flipper which is also home to the rare Orinoco Crocodile and replete with green luscious rainforests.
Topping out at between 110cm-140cm with its characteristic pre-historic beak, the shoebill is a very large and rather strange looking bird. Stork-like and solitary, it is native to the tropical swaps of Central-East Africa and notably the headwaters of the vast Congo River. Teeming with wildlife, this diverse ecosystem is ideal for budding ornithologists also looking to score species like the Flamingo, and the Cape Shelduck, with further safari inland.
Slithering along the dense jungle floor of Indonesia, the Glass snake, quite deceptively is actually a lizard. Outwardly appearing serpentine, this scaly reptile with a lacertilian head is certainly a sight to behold. They are found all over the world, from India and China to Morocco, but it is in Indonesia, sharing a habitat with Orangutans and Sugar Gliders, where we recommend ‘not-snake’ spotting.
Possibly the cutest animal on the list, the Tarsier, found in the Islands of South East Asia, is one of the world’s smallest primates. Its enormous glassy eyes are its most notable feature- with each eye being larger than the animal’s brain, but its size and waif-like ears are equally defining. We recommend a visit to the Philippines Tarsier Foundation, on the Island of Bohol for those desperate to catch a glimpse of this minuscule primate.
Long legged, necked and eared, the Gerenuk, also known as Waller’s Gazelle, is a bizarre species of Antelope found in the horn of Africa amidst the dry thorn and shrub land desert. Perfectly adapted for the harsh barren landscape, they are largely independent of water, getting enough moisture from the various plants which form their diet. Trek out to Ethiopia to catch a glimpse of this less than graceful gazelle.
Neither a dog nor a raccoon, the Japanese Raccoon Dog, also known as a Tanuki, is unassumingly gentle, and as the only member of the Canid family to hibernate, its monogamous nature means that it very often will spend the winter cuddled up in pairs. The subject of the Studio Ghibli film ‘Pom Poko’, Tanuki are portrayed in Japanese mythology as tricksters and shapeshifters, with particularly large… anatomy. They live everywhere, from valleys and forests to mountain tops, but Tanuki are most commonly found perched in the front of Japanese shops as a statue, holding a bottle of Sake to welcome customers in.
Like any Islander, the New Zealand native Kakapo is stout, stubborn and hardy. A large flightless bird adorned with a cloak of bright green feathers, the Kakapo is woven into the rich tradition of Māori folklore for both its colour and its flesh. Adorably inept, the Kakapos numbers are dwindling due to irregular mating habits, but a small population can be found on Whenva Island and Anchor Island and should you chance upon one, they are incredibly friendly and will often come up very close.
Closely related to killer whales, you will find this unique dolphin in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. With no distinct features you may be fooled into thinking this creature is dull. However, these dolphins can expel majestic water streams from their mouths of up to 1.5 meters and they also have a cooperative relationship with fishermen. The men call out to dolphins using acoustic signals and the dolphins lure the schools of fish towards the net. This dolphin is a sight to behold gliding across the glistening Bengal Bay.