It's raining this morning. As the sun slowly rises I can see the bright yellow aspen groves on the flanks of Thousand Lake Mountain from my window. Soon the first light of the day will touch the crest of the red cliffs, then slowly make its way down in a beautiful display that had by now become a part of my morning ritual, along with the fresh brewed coffee and the hushed sounds of a small town slowly awakening. Tourist season is almost over and it's quiet again. I've been up since 5am and so far only saw one vehicle on the road. This time of year there is more to it, though. Autumn always has that intangible feeling of quiet drama. The dark skies as the last of the monsoon storms pass through, the colorful trees, the slight chill in the air and the palpable feeling of winter's impending arrival always put me in a contemplative mood. This is the time of year I look back upon, and forward to, in other seasons.
The World's Rarest Animals
1. Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat
There are about 115 northern hairy-nosed wombats left in the wild. They all live in Epping Forest National Park in Queensland, Australia.
This wombat's nose is very important in its survival since the creature has very poor eyesight and needs its nose to smell food in the dark.
2. Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth
This small three-toed sloth is endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, a small island off the coast of Panama. A 2011 study found only 79 left in the wild.
3. Red-Crested Tree Rat
The red-crested tree rat lives in the forests of Colombia. It was thought to be extinct for many years — until volunteers at the El Dorado Nature Reserve were visited by the creature in 2011. The last recorded sighting was in 1898, when two of the critters were found and studied, and were the subsequent source of all information about the rat.
This little critter is about 18 inches long, which is about the same size as a guinea pig. It inhabits a relatively small area of the forest in Colombia, and much of this area has been cleared or disturbed.
4. Angel Shark (aka Squatina Squatina)
Historically, the angel shark range was from the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Seas, but commercial fishing has diminished the population. It is now uncommon throughout most of its range with the exception of some areas of the southern Mediterranean and Canary Islands.
Camouflaged in the sand, an angel shark waits there for small fish to swim within gulping distance.
When an unsuspecting fish comes near, the shark lunges upward, sucks the fish into its huge mouth, and swallows it whole.
5. Boni Giant Sengi (Formerly Known as an Elephant Shrew)
This rare animal lives in the Boni-Dodori Forest in Kenya. The forest these giant sengi call home is being destroyed for development.
6. Javan Rhino
This rhino used to be found throughout Southeast Asia, but there are about 40–60 individuals living in the Ujung Kulon National Park in Java.
Rhino horns can fetch up to $30,000 on the black market.
7. Plougshare Tortoise (aka Angonoka)
This is the most endangered tortoise in the world. The population is estimated to between 440–770, and they reside in the Baly Bay region in Madagascar.
The plougshare tortoise is so beautiful, it's a curse. The animal is poached for the illegal international pet trade.
8. Gooty Tarantula (aka Metallic Tarantula)
The spider's habitat is in Southeastern India and Sri Lanka. Habitat loss and degradation as a result of deforestation, firewood collection, and civil unrest have all contributed to the loss of this tarantula's population.
9. Durrell's Vontsira (aka Salanoia Durrelli)
The Durell's vontsira is a marsh-dwelling animal that lives in the Lake Alaotra in Madagascar, which is an extremely threatened area.
10. Hainan Gibbon
There are only about 23 Hainan gibbons left, making it the world's rarest primate, who live on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
11. Cuban Greater Funnel-Eared Bat
There are fewer than 100 Cuban greater funnel-eared bats left in Cueva La Barca, Cuba. The bats have lost much of their habitat due to human destruction.
12. Northern Bald Ibis
There are fewer than 250 mature Northern bald ibises.
The northern bald ibis breeds in Morocco, Turkey, and Syria. The ibis is threatened by habitat degradation and destruction, and hunting.
13. Nelson's Small-Eared Shrew
This shrew is endemic to eastern Mexico. It has suffered from habitat loss due to logging, cattle grazing, and agriculture.
14. Roloway monkey
The roloway monkey used to live in the forests of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, but it has become extinct in Ghana.
Hunting for consumption as bushmeat and habitat loss have contributed to the drastic decline in the creature's population.
15. Araripe Manakin
There are 779 Araripe Manakins that live in Brazil. They have suffered from habitat destruction due to expansion of agriculture and recreational facilities.
16. Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad
Unseen since 1995, the toad, which lives in the lowlands of Ecuador, was rediscovered in 2010.
17. Geometric Tortoise
The geometric tortoise lives in Cape Province, South Africa. It is threatened by habitat destruction and degradation as well as predation.
18. Jamaican Rock Iguana
Believed to be extinct for many years, this iguana was found in the remote Hellshire Hills in 1970.
19. Spoon-Billed Sandpiper
The spoon-billed sandpiper is a small wader that breeds in northeastern Russia. There are fewer than 1,000 mature individuals left in the wild.
The main threats to its survival are habitat loss on its breeding grounds and loss of tidal flats through its migratory and wintering range.
20. Luristan Newt (aka Kaiser's Spotted Newt)
The luristan newt is a type of salamander and is endemic to the southern Zagros Mountains in Iran. The luristan newt is coveted in the pet trade — they were sold on a Ukraine website for $300 — and now only survives in captivity.
This is the world's smallest dolphin, and is from the Northern Gulf of California and Mexico.
There are fewer than 200 vaquita dolphins left in the wild, and the population is declining. The immediate threat to the dolphins is the use of gillnets deployed by fishermen.
22. Actinote Zikani
The Actinote zikani lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but has lost much of its habitat to humans.
23. Greater Bamboo Lemur
There are only 100–160 individuals left in the southeastern and southcentral rainforests of Madagascar. The major threat to this animal is slash-and-burn agriculture, mining, and illegal logging.
This creature has powerful jaws that can crack through bamboo, which makes up the majority of its diet.
24. Tarzan's chameleon
This chameleon was discovered in 2009 in the Tarzan Forest in Madagascar. Rampant deforestation threatens Tarzan's chameleon.
This magical creature was only discovered in 1992. It lives in the Annamite mountains on the Vietnam and Laos border.
Hunting in the Saola's habitat has caused the species' population to decline.
26. Red River Giant Softshell Turtle
This enormous weighs 440 pounds. Unfortunately, there are only four red river giant softshell turtles left, all of which live in captivity. The animal is considered sacred by many Vietnamese.
27. Dusky Gopher Frog
The entire population is estimated to be between 60–100 individuals living in two ponds in Mississippi. Unfortunately, the dusky gopher frog population has declined because of loss of wetlands and native longleaf pine habitat, the decline of gopher tortoises, invasive species, disease, drought conditions, and lack of natural and prescribed fire.
28. Singapore Freshwater Crab
This crab is threatened by habitat degradation because of a reduction in water quality and quantity.
29. Madagascar Pochard
This pochard duck stands on the head of a hippo at the zoo in Berlin. There are about 20 mature pochards left in the wild, who live in volcanic lakes north of Bealanana, Madagascar.
The Madagascar pochard is threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, and fishing as well as introduced fish.
30. Hirola (aka Hunter's Hartebeest)
The hirola antelope found in arid grassy plains in a pocket on the border between Kenya and Somalia. There are between 500 and 1,200 of them left in the wild.
31. Sumatran Rhino
There are fewer than 250 mature Sumatran rhinos left in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Sumatran rhino is hunted for its horn, which is used in traditional medicines.
32. Parides Burchellanus
There are fewer than 100 parides burchellanus left living in Cerrado, Brazil.
33. Franklin's Bumblebee
Franklin's bumblebee lives in Oregon and California. This bumblebee is threatened by disease from commercially bred bumblebees and habitat destruction.
34. Common sawfish
The common sawfish lives in the coastal tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Currently, the common sawfish is largely restricted to northern Australia.
Sawfish have adapted to live in both salt and fresh water, while their long saw-like rostrum (nose) has evolved to expertly forage for food under the sandy ocean floor. Sawfish have been placed on the critically endangered list mainly due to a human impact to their environment and being entangled in fishing nets.
35. Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey
The tonkin snub-nosed monkey is endemic to Northeastern Vietnam, where there are fewer than 200 left.
Heavy poaching and the destruction of habitat have diminished this monkey's population.