Depending on your point of view, the world might be overrun with domestic animals (a 2011 report suggested there are a whopping 19 billion chickens on the planet, for example). But when it comes to some of the rarer critters out there, the endangered species list seems to grow longer and longer with each passing year.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) there are more than 40,000 species on its famous Red List, with at least 16,000 of those animals now threatened with extinction. While the list includes the usual suspects like the black rhino, the orangutan, the Malayan tiger and the Asian elephant, there are also quite a few other, somewhat atypical animals on there that most people have probably never even heard of.
From turtles and crabs to kangaroos and vultures, here are some of the weirdest animals scouted to-date that are officially endangered.
These creatures, which look like a deer crossed with a zebra, may be strange to those of us living in North America, but they’re quite revered in the Republic of Congo, where they also happen to be the national symbol and grace the Congolese franc notes. Also known as the forest giraffe, this critter is endangered thanks to a decreased population from poaching and habitat loss.
This neotenic salamander and its tadpole-like dorsal fin may be jokingly referred to as a walking fish for the fact that it lives permanently in the water, but it is indeed an amphibian. A native of the lake complex of Xochimilco, Mexico, these relatives of the tiger salamander are now critically endangered thanks to the introduction of larger fish into its habitat, the pet trade and the overall contamination of the lake.
These unique-looking dolphins have a prominent forehead and a short beak, making them fairly memorable. Unfortunately there are also only a few left now that the IUCN has bumped them to critically endangered. Found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, these dolphins have been showing up dead and entangled in gillnets, leading to greater fishing regulations and protected areas to help save them.
These giant hermit crabs can grow up to nine pounds and clock in at three feet from leg-to-leg, making them the largest land-living anthropods around. They’re named for their penchant for eating coconuts, which they can painstakingly pick apart with their claws, and they’ve been known to take off with people’s silverware and other objects in their native Philippines. They’re considered a delicacy there, but thanks to the tourist trade and a high demand by restaurants and hotels, experts are now calling for intervention.
These adorable creatures from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Queensland look like a cross between a kangaroo and a lemur thanks to their short legs, strong forearms, and cute little ears. They spend most of their time up in the trees (hence the name), but now thanks to deforestation, illegal logging, and poaching, these guys are being pushed towards extinction.
Vultures tend to get a bad rap thanks to their scavenging tendencies, but the bearded variety draws curiosity because of its diet (bones are the preferred and almost exclusive food-source), and thanks to the fact that they dye their white feathers red by rubbing them in iron-rich soil and mud. They’re the Alps’ largest bird and one of the rarest raptors in Europe, and were once hunted for fears that they preyed on lamb and young children. Today they’re endangered thanks to an overall lack of food and a disappearing habitat.
Mary River Turtle
These “punk, butt-breathing” turtles from Australia are unique because they have the ability to breathe underwater for up to three days thanks to specialized glands in their cloacae—an organ used for reproduction and excretion. While underwater they often grow algae on their heads, resulting in the green Mohawk “hairdo.” Thanks to the pet trade and the fact that they take 25-30 years to reach sexual maturity, they’re now officially counted among the endangered reptiles out there.
This flat-faced, big-eyed, elfish-looking creature is native to Madagascar and was actually thought to be extinct before it was rediscovered in the early 1960s, when it reclaimed its status as the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It uses its fingers to tap on trees to find grubs before gnawing through the wood and picking them out with its middle finger, masticating the bugs to bits with its continuously growing incisors. Their population is endangered thanks to a decreased habitat, but given their appearance it’s no wonder these animals have dwindled because of superstition too; some believe seeing one will predict the death of a villager, as per ancient Malagasy legend.
These eel-like, primative fish have historically been found wherever salmon and steelhead go, and are basically the stuff of horror movies thanks to their sucker-like mouths, which contain three large anterior teeth and many small posterior teeth too. These guys feed on a variety of fish and serve as food for marine animals like sea lions and sharks. Today their population has severely declined thanks to dewatering and reduced flows, environmental contamination, and poisoning.
This bird may look like an owl and act like one too thanks to its nocturnal habits, but the flightless New Zealand creature is indeed a parrot—one that climbs into the tree canopies with its powerful feet. In the mid-1970s there were only 18 kakapos left on Earth thanks to predators, but following the hard work of biologists there are more than 150 today. The fight continues as scientists monitor nests throughout the breeding season, hand-raising the young whose parents have flown the coop.