By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
One of my favorite parts about my job is learning about animals I had no idea existed. Often, I learn about an obscure species for the first time because it’s facing some new threat or is verging on extinction. So, with Endangered Species Day tomorrow, I asked some of my colleagues to share their favorite, little-known threatened animals.
There’s the sawfish, a big ray with a virtual chainsaw coming out of its face, named by Taylor Maggiacomo, an illustrator on the graphics team.
Or the hellbender, suggested by Christine Dell’Amore, an editor on the Animals team. It’s a big, aquatic salamander that often goes by the nickname “snot otter,” for reasons I’ll leave you to imagine.
Francis Rivera, a senior producer, went with the saola, a rare antelope relative that is sometimes called the Asian unicorn.
My own favorite, or one of them, is the northern hairy-nosed wombat, a short-legged wombat that can weigh up to 90 pounds and sways its behind as it walks.
When we think of at-risk species, we often think of iconic symbols of conservation: the elephant, threatened by poaching; the giant panda, threatened by habitat loss; or the emperor penguin (two chicks are pictured above). The penguins’ numbers are OK right now, but they could lose more than three-quarters of their colonies in the next century because of melting sea ice.
Big or small, iconic or obscure, every species has a role to play in the ecosystem. Speaking of small and obscure (and cute)—come back to natgeo.com/animals tomorrow for an announcement from Nat Geo’s Photo Ark, an ongoing project to document every living species in zoos and sanctuaries. I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something new.
What’s your favorite little-known animal? Let us know! And get this newsletter daily by signing up here.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Photographer Jeff Kerby took this image of a gelada monkey in the highlands of central Ethiopia. “I spent many evenings with these gelada monkeys as they waited above their sleeping cliffs,” Kerby said. “After a busy day of eating grass, they would often rest, groom, and sometimes fight” until sunset.
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Today in a minute
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Saying goodbye: Dr. Julie Butler owned and operated New York's 145th Street Animal Hospital, the only full-service veterinary service in Harlem for many years. Butler lived by the principle that “if you have it to give, you give,” caring for animals and opening her home to friends in need. Butler, who was 62, died of complications of the novel coronavirus, her daughter told the New York Times.
Mothering styles: Human or animal, moms seem to share one characteristic: “Many species seem to recognize that the young really don’t know what they are doing,” animal behavioralist Jennifer Verdolin tells us, “so they are given a kind of grace period to learn.” See these images of animals with their young.
The big takeaway
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Subscriber exclusive: See how a plague of locusts forms
In a few words
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The last glimpse
How to make peace with the world’s deadliest bear: It can run faster than humans. It has long, curved claws. And humans are pressing in. Meet the insect-eating sloth bear, which startles easily. India serves as the final stronghold for the species, with small populations in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Gloria Dickie writes for Nat Geo about how conflict between sloth bears and humans threatens the survival and well-being of both. Pictured above, a rescued sloth bear living at the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Center in India.
Subscriber exclusive: A bear’s eye view of Yellowstone