Famously the most expressive cat in the world, the Pallas’s cat (or manul) is hunted for its fur in China, Mongolia and Russia. We think you’ll agree that the brilliantly fluffy felines look far better in their fur than any human would.
Facial expressions are well-developed in primates, with striking similarities to humans. It makes the plights of species like the gorilla particularly heartbreaking—the intelligent apes are endangered thanks to threats like habitat destruction, poaching and the Ebola virus.
The tarsier’s giant eyes and spindly fingers give it a bizarre but lovable appearance. Unfortunately they are among the world’s most endangered primates due to human-induced habitat loss, and now heavily depend on conservation to avoid becoming extinct.
It’s almost impossible to look at a sea otter and not let out a little ‘awwwh’. Sadly they’re a target for hunters due to their fur, which is the thickest of any mammal’s. They also face the horrific danger of oil spills, plus food shortage due to overfishing of their preferred prey, shellfish.
Admittedly hilarious-looking with their bulging eyes and madcap facial expressions, the potoo is a nocturnal bird found in Central and South America. They have a large range and several subspecies, but many populations are decreasing due to deforestation.
Another endangered primate, the pileated gibbon is a common target for the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia. Meat and pet trading, alongside the ongoing threat of habitat loss, have led to organisations such as Wildlife Alliance setting up rescue programs for the species.
You might think that an apex predator like the polar bear has nothing to worry about, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Malnutrition or starvation due to climate change and sea ice shrinkage is threatening their survival, making the future of this mighty mammal uncertain.
Fascinating amphibians with the ability to restore limbs and breathe through both their gills and skin, wild axolotls might already be extinct due to urbanisation and water pollution in Mexico City. They still exist as pets, but a four month search in 2013 found no surviving wild individuals.
Many species of sloth, including aquatic varieties and elephant-sized land sloths, have previously gone extinct. Our current tree-dwelling varieties depend on the tropical rainforests they call home, many of which are at risk of deforestation.
Quokkas are ridiculously cute marsupials that live on small islands off the coast of Western Australia. Despite the fact that their populations are decreasing as a result of habitat destruction and the dangers posed by cats and dogs, the little guys always seem to be smiling.
What a shame it is that animals can’t talk. If endangered or vulnerable species like gorillas and polar bears could explain how deforestation, global warming and other ecological catastrophes are affecting their future survival, perhaps decision makers around the world might act more rapidly to save these incredible creatures.
Since they don’t have a voice, it’s up to conservationists to protect our planet’s animals. Here are a few whose expressive faces are calling out for help.