Animals are an integral part of our planet and civilization. They are a vital component in the world’s ecosystem and our survival is intrinsically linked to theirs. With over 8.7 million different species of animals on this planet, it can be so hard to keep track of all of them. Most of us are familiar with tigers and elephants, rare beautiful creatures found both in the wild and in captivity that were brought back from the brink of extinction through global efforts. Some animals are also a rare sight because they can only be found in one place in the whole world. These 15 animals are the rarest of them all, with such small populations in the wild that experts can tell you exactly how many there are out there. These numbers may truly surprise you.
1. Darwin’s Fox
Darwin’s Fox is a species in the dog family that also goes by the name ‘Darwin’s zorro’. There are approximately 500 mature individuals of this furry fox on the mainland of the South American nation Chile, and 100 on the island off the coast of Chile called Chiloé Island. This species is mostly found in areas designated as National Parks and is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN (International Union For Conservation of Nature) Red List.
This member of the bovine family goes by many other names like the Asian Unicorn, siola, spindlehorn, and the Vu Quang Bovid or ox. This species was discovered in 1992 when remains were discovered in Vu Quang Nature Reserve in Vietnam. A live saola was seen for the first time in 1992 when it was captured in a photograph taken by a camera trap in the Reserve. Experts estimate that there are less than 700 saolas left. As this relative of the antelope is difficult to track, exact numbers are unknown. It is a critically endangered species on the IUCN Red List and one of the rarest large mammals.
3. Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
The northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the rarest mammals in the world, and one of three living species of wombat. The numbers of this species in National Parks and Refuges around the world went from 300 in 2015 to less than 20 in 2018. As there are a plethora of threats to the survival of this species, there are numerous population recovery plans in place. This species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
4. Boni Giant Sengi (Formerly known as the Elephant Shrew)
This long-nosed shrew (also known as the jumping shrew) is found across the southern part of Africa, from the Namib Desert to the thick forests of South Africa. Despite being called a shrew and their small stature, they are actually closer relatives to elephants than shrews. This species was discovered only in 2008. Its exact populations are unknown, but the population is estimated to be between 400 and 800. It is not listed on the IUCN Red List, but is one of the species in the report on The World’s 100 most threatened species, published as a collaboration between the IUCN Species Survival Commission and the Zoological Society of London.
5. Ploughshare Tortoise (aka Angonoka)
This tortoise native to Madagascar is extremely popular in the exotic pet trade despite being a protected species. The rare Angonoka tortoise also goes by the names Madagascar tortoise, or Madagascar angulated tortoise because of the pattern on its shell. Despite being listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, the numbers of this tortoise have continually declined and there are only an estimated 500 individuals left in the wild.
6. Black-Footed Ferret
The black-footed ferret, also known as the prairie dog hunter, or the American Polecat, was declared extinct in 1979 until remains of the one were discovered in 1981. As of 1987, the species was considered extinct in the wild, but thanks to numerous captive breeding programs organized by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, those numbers have increased. There are now over 1000 of these ferrets in the wild, spread across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It is now listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
This underwater creature is a rare species of porpoise that is slightly smaller in size than a human being. It is the most endangered species in the order Cetacea. The vaquita is found across the Gulf of California and had an estimated population of 600 in 1997. According to a report published by the IUCN in 2019, the rough estimate now stands at only 9. This species has been wiped out by unlawful fishing practices and is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.