The World Wildlife Foundation (you know, the panda people) did a survey and put together a bucket list of the top ten species that you have just got to see sometime in your life. Their criteria for animals to include were:
- Seeing it has to make your bottom jaw drop at least an inch!
- Seeing it has to make your breath suddenly get shorter.
- It has to be a creature that you just know pictures alone will never convey the majesty of what you were seeing.
Over several years, they surveyed thousands of people using these criteria and they compiled this top-ten list of must-see species!
I can only assume that they mean for you to see these creatures in the wild – because I’ve seen all of them on video and many of them at zoos, and that never lives up to the majesty of seeing them live and free in their element.
But you would have to be a pretty widely-traveled explorer to have seen all of these in the wild! Maybe it would be fun to have a wild score, a zoo score,
My film score would be 10/10, my zoo score would be 5/10, and my wild score would be 1/10 – how about you?
#10 – Lions
King of the Beasts, Mufasa!
Originally ranging throughout all of Africa (except central Sahara and northern Congo) and throughout southern Europe, Asia Minor, and Asia all the way from Greece to India, now the only places to go see Panthera Leo in the wild are isolated spots in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fortunately, big cats are a staple of zoos around the world, so it is not difficult to go see live lions, but those tend to be both boring and sad experiences.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has classified Lions as Vulnerable, meaning that without further human intervention the species is at high risk of human-caused extinction.
#9 – Wolves
Canis lupus originally ranged throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, with the exception of southeast Asia, and it is still widespread despite having been driven out of human-populated regions including the United States, Europe, and
IUCN considers wolves to be of Least Concern from a conservation standpoint, but they are still amazing creatures that are fascinating to watch moving and hunting as a pack.
#8 – Gorillas
The largest of primates, gorillas are now categorized as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. This means that they are a mere hair’s breadth from being extinct in the wild, and that unless we do something dramatic, Humans may soon be the largest of the primates.
If you want to see on in the wild, you’d better be ready for a trip to central Africa.
#7 – Dolphins
Dolphins encompass dozens of species of marine mammals that live in tropical and temperate rivers and shallow oceans all over the world. These are probably the easiest creatures on this list to go see in the wild, but some species of dolphin are vulnerable or threatened.
#6 – Penguins
We usually think of these flightless semi-aquatic birds waddling around in Antarctica (and they do) but they also thrive throughout the entire western coast of South America, Galapagos, coastal South Africa, southern Australia, New Zealand, and the Antipodes.
Like dolphins, the name, penguin, is inclusive of dozens of species and the status of these individual species ranges from Least Concern to Endangered.
#5 – Whales
I’ve always wanted to see orcas and humpbacks but never gotten around to it. I need to prioritize it and get somewhere that those creatures hang out.
And then there is the narwhal – the unicorn of the sea! Let’s go visit Greenland so we can see those!
And let’s not forget the whale shark (not actually a whale, but the largest living thing in the animal kingdom). They were discovered by Heyerdahl during the Kon Tiki expedition and I’ve wanted to see one ever since I read that book!
#4 – Polar Bears
Polar bears came to the forefront of the public’s collective mind a year or two ago when someone posted a YouTube video of an emaciated polar bear that was on the brink of starvation due to habitat destruction and the effects of Climate change on its food supply.
That video and the plight of the polar bears was (in my opinion) over-played, but that does not change the fact that the species is Red Listed as Vulnerable, meaning that it is likely to become extinct unless a deliberate change is made by humans to prevent it.
To see a polar bear in the wild (which is a dangerous-sounding proposition) you would have to travel to Hudson Bay or any of the maritime regions north of about 50 degrees north latitude anywhere around the rim of the North Atlantic or Arctic sea.
Come to think of it, an expedition to see narwhals and polar bears in the wild might make a trip to Greenland totally worthwhile!
#3 – Elephants
Elephants, as the world’s largest terrestrial animals, hold a fascination for kids and adults alike. And they are not just known for their size, but also their intelligence.
It is not uncommon to see elephants that are trained to create paintings, although this is a controversial practice because some groups maintain that this is not an expression of an innate artistic bent – rather the elephants are tortured/trained to reproduce a sellable product.
#2 – Tigers
Shere Khan, A.K.A. Panthera tigris, is the largest cat on the planet, often growing twice as long and three times heavier than an adult male lion! These things are so big and powerful, they have even been known to kill adult elephants and rhinocerus!
I had no idea!
Cats are not really my thing, and big cats are just… bigger – but I have GOT to see a 12-foot long
#1 – Giant Panda
Come on! You knew #1 had to be the panda, right? After all, this is the World Wildlife Foundation’s Survey and Top Ten List!
The scientific name for the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, means “black & white cat-foot.” Currently, the only natural range of the Giant Panda is in central China.
The bad news is that the Giant Panda is considered by the IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction due to