17 of the Rarest Creatures on Earth

Our planet is teeming with life, and an estimated 8.7 million species of animals alone call it home. But not all of these are familiar or plentiful, and many exist in remote pockets or fight for survival in dwindling numbers. Here, we focus on 20 of the rarest, most elusive, and endangered animals on Earth and the conservation challenges that we face to prevent their extinction. 

Northern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cotton)

Photo Credit: Jason Prince/Shutterstock.

This magnificent creature holds the tragic title of the rarest mammal on Earth, with only two females remaining in captivity. The species is functionally extinct in the wild, although efforts are underway to use scientific reproductive techniques to preserve the species. According to PBS, wild populations were decimated by human activity like war, poaching, and habitat destruction.

Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)

Photo Credit: Bruyu/Shutterstock.

Nicknamed the “Asian unicorn” for its single, spiraling horn, the Saola is a forest-dwelling bovine that is native to the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos. Not described by science until 1993, it remains elusive and critically endangered. While populations were likely always small, humans have caused further declines due to habitat loss and poaching for its rare hides.

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Photo Credit: Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.

The rarest orangutan species (there are three) is the Sumatran orangutan, which only lives on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. These large, intelligent apes are critically endangered due to forest clearing for palm oil plantations and illegal hunting for the zoo and pet trades. Like us, they’re slow to reproduce and invest many years in a single offspring, making it difficult for populations to bounce back, even in protected areas.

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)

Photo Credit: Tharuka Photographer/Shutterstock.

The world’s smallest and most endangered marine cetacean is the Vaquita, a small, shy porpoise found only in the Gulf of California, Mexico. The CFBD says only ten are left in the wild, largely due to entanglement in gillnets used to catch totoaba, a lucrative fish on the black market. Vaquitas are mammals and breathe air, so they drown if they cannot reach the surface.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmaeus)

Photo Credit: Butterfly Hunter/Shutterstock.

This unique wading bird with a distinctive, spoon-shaped bill was thought to be extinct until a small population was rediscovered in Russia in the 1990s. Because it breeds in northeastern Russia and overwinters in southeast Asia, it requires international cooperation to ensure its survival. Habitat loss, wetland degradation, and water pollution all continue to threaten its numbers.

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Lagmay/Shutterstock.

This salamander is permanently neotenous, meaning it retains juvenile features into adulthood. It is native to the Xochimilco canals near Mexico City and is known for its ability to regenerate limbs and organs, making it a valuable medical research species. In the wild, water pollution and invasive species that compete or predate on them have left populations endangered. 

Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes)

Photo Credit: Kerry Hargrove/Shutterstock.

North America’s only native ferret species was declared extinct in 1979 due to habitat loss and dog-borne sylvatic plague. Yet the discovery of a single ferret in Wyoming in 1981 prompted a captive breeding program and the reintroduction of populations into the wild. Small numbers now roam the Great Plains of the U.S.—though still rare, they’re a conservation success story.

Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)

Photo Credit: Danny Ye/Shutterstock.

One of the world’s most endangered parrots, the Spix’s Macaw is a vibrantly blue parrot once native to Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests but now sadly extinct in the wild since 2000. Loss of habitat and collection of birds for the illegal pet trade led to a catastrophic decline in wild numbers. However, captive breeding programs offer some hope for the species’ future.

Popa Langur (Trachypithecus popa)

Photo Credit: Gemmataylor/Shutterstock.

This critically endangered monkey has an unusual, heart-shaped facial patch, but wild populations are dwindling in its native rainforests on Vietnam’s Cat Ba Island. Their restricted range and exclusively arboreal lifestyle make them especially susceptible to habitat loss. Human activities, such as logging and tourism, are the primary threat to wild populations. 

Leafy Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus)

Photo Credit: Makabas/Shutterstock.

Camouflaged to resemble seaweed, the Leafy Sea Dragon truly lives up to its name. It resembles an elongated seahorse covered in strands of algae. Found only in the waters of southern and western Australia, it is slow-moving and vulnerable to habitat degradation and water pollution. It is now threatened with extinction.

Giant Squid (Architeuthis spp.)

Photo Credit: Konstantin Novikov/Shutterstock.

Smithsonian Ocean writes, “Finding a live giant squid is an extremely rare event. Almost everything people know about giant squid comes from specimens washed up on beaches.” It is one of the largest invertebrates on Earth (up to 46 feet long). Despite their size, Giant Squid is mysterious and elusive and vulnerable to human threats like overfishing and discarded nets.

Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri)

Photo Credit: AGCreations/Shutterstock.

Thought to be extinct by the 1890s, this flightless bird native to New Zealand was rediscovered in the wild in 1948. It is large, bluish-purple in color, and lives in remote grassland habitats, where it plays a crucial role in natural seed dispersal. Thanks to intensive conservation efforts, populations are slowly recovering, but numbers of wild birds still remain dangerously low.

Dugong (Dugong dugon)

Photo Credit: AGCreations/Shutterstock.

There are four species of sea cows (class ‘Sirenia’) still existing on Earth—three species of manatee and the Australian dugong. Their coastal seagrass habitat and habit of entering freshwater makes them vulnerable to human impacts like development, pollution, and boat traffic. They are also slow to reproduce, making population recovery challenging.

Sunflower Sea Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides)

Photo Credit: NatureDiver/Shutterstock.

Sunflower sea stars are large (up to 3.3′ across), with up to 24 arms, and found in the northeast Pacific. Despite being one of the largest starfish species in the world, these marine predators are critically endangered. They never recovered from being nearly wiped out by an outbreak of wasting disease that began around 2013. The disease causes lesions, limb loss, and death.

Hirola (Beatragus hunteri)

Photo Credit: Bernie Van Der Vyver/Shutterstock.

Also known as the Hunter Antelope, the Hirola is critically endangered in its native habitat—the grasslands of Somalia and Ethiopia in Africa. Human livestock farming and waterway diversions have left this mammal struggling to find enough grazing and water to survive. BBC Wildlife Magazine claims there are fewer than 500 individuals left in the wild.

Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)

Photo Credit: Rafiqul Islam Murad/Shutterstock.

Dwelling in the deep, dark ocean depths, the Vampire Squid is a rare sight for humans, even scientists who travel to depth in submarines. Its appearance can be pretty mesmerizing, as it possesses bioluminescent light organs under each eye and a cape-like web that pulsates with red light. Population estimates are vague, but large predators are almost always scarce in the deep sea. 

The Lord Howe Island Phasmid (Dryococelus australis)

Photo Credit: Danny Ye/Shutterstock.

Also known as the Land Lobster, this rare invertebrate was considered extinct after a human shipwreck introduced predatory rats to its Australian island home in 1918. It is a giant, dark-colored insect that uses camouflage to blend into its surroundings and is now thought to be one of the rarest invertebrates on Earth after an individual was rediscovered in 2001.

Read More: 17 of the Most Dangerous Cities in the World (6 Are in The US)

Photo Credit: Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock.

Every city has its dangers, but it goes without saying that some places are far more dangerous than others. We’ve compiled a list of 17 of the most dangerous cities in the world in terms of violent crime and homicide rates.

17 of the Most Dangerous Cities in the World (6 Are in The US)

17 Non-Negotiables Men of Integrity Refuse to Compromise On

Photo Credit: StockLite/Shutterstock.

A man with integrity has strong moral principles—there are just some things that he would never do. In this article, we’ll find out the top 17 things that damage a man’s integrity.

17 Non-Negotiables Men of Integrity Refuse to Compromise On

17 Things You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

Photo Credit: Nicoleta Ionescu/Shutterstock.

Let’s be real — when was the last time you went through your wallet and got rid of anything unnecessary? It’s important to know if you’re carrying items with you every day that could put you at risk. Click to discover the 17 things you should never keep in your wallet, helping you minimize the risk of identity theft, financial loss, and other issues.

17 Things You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

18 Old School Habits That Are Making a Comeback

Photo Credit: insta_photos/ hutterstock.

Old school habits are starting to make a comeback. These can be hobbies associated with the older generation, such as sewing or woodworking. It can also be old-school manners, such as writing thank-you notes and opening doors for people. Let’s look at 18 of these habits.

18 Old School Habits That Are Making a Comeback

18 American Phrases That Non-Americans Struggle to Understand

Photo Credit: michaeljung/Shutterstock.

American expressions are a vital part of its culture, reflecting the nation’s history and values. However, these sayings can sometimes puzzle people from other countries because they often carry context, colloquialisms, and historical references that can lose their intended meaning when crossing borders. Let’s look at 18 of such American sayings.

18 American Phrases That Non-Americans Struggle to Understand