This Earth Day let's celebrate some of the special animals that share our home!
No matter your age, there’s nothing cooler than seeing an exotic animal in its natural habitat. That first time you see a lion hunting alongside its pride or a whale gliding through the ocean, you can’t help but be giddy with childlike excitement. Your heart beats a little faster and your eyes grow a little wider as the creatures of storybooks and movies come alive right in front of you. If you share our love for wildlife, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Below read about 45 animals around the world and where to see them.
When you hear Africa, you can’t help but think of the exotic wildlife and safari experience. A trip to this incredible continent should be on every bucket list, whether you love animals, love culture, or love cuisine – it has it all!
The “king of the jungle” is on everyone’s must-see list. Simba and his family live in the grasslands and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. Head to Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, or South Africa to see these majestic creatures.
As the largest land animal on the earth, an elephant won’t be hard to miss! African elephants grow to about 13 feet tall and weigh thousands of pounds. Both male and female African elephants have tusks, and they use them to dig for food. They live in the same area as lions – sub-Saharan Africa.
Cheetahs are the fastest mammals on the earth, and can go from 0-60mph in 3 seconds, putting Speedy Gonzalez to shame. It is incredible to see one moving full speed! Cheetahs can be found in sub-Saharan Africa and Iran.
There are two types of rhinos found in Africa: black rhino and white rhino. The former can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya; the latter is found mainly in South Africa but also Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Rhinos are a prime poaching target and are critically endangered as a result. The Rhinos Without Borders project is relocating rhinos from South Africa to Botswana (this country has strict anti-poaching laws) as an effort to conserve the species.
Leopards are one of the most elusive cats and are predominantly nocturnal. They spend much of their time tucked in trees and even drag their kill into the limbs to eat. They are native to more than 35 countries in Africa, including Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
Less than 900 of these gentle giants remain in Africa today. They live in protected national parks in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mountain gorillas spend time in a group of up to 30, known as a troop, and the silverback, or dominant male, leads the troop.
Cape Buffaloes are massive creatures, weighing in around 1000 pounds. They live in the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa in large herds. Though these animals look pretty silly munching on grass, they are actually very aggressive and one of the most dangerous animals in Africa along with hippos and crocodiles.
The southernmost continent may be the least toured by humans, but it is home to many animals that can survive the chilly climate.
The Arctic may have polar bears, but Antarctica has penguins! There are seven types of penguins that live on or near Antarctica, including the largest penguin the Emperor. Though penguins don’t fly through the air, they do soar under water at up to 25 mph.
There are four types of seals found in Antarctica. Without polar bears hunting them, these seals are much less skittish around people. Seals look cute but can be aggressive hunters – leopard seals prey on smaller seals and even penguins.
Antarctica is home to more than 30 species of seabirds, including the albatross. With a long wingspan (up to 11 feet!) and sleek feathers, these birds look very graceful when they fly. Albatross have a long lifespan—80-85 years—and mate for life. If you’re a bird, I’m a bird!
From the jungles of India to the mountains of China, Asia features many diverse and fascinating animals.
If you’re trying to spot a proboscis monkey, just look for the long nose! Like the name suggests, these monkeys are known for their noses as well as red fur. They live in Borneo and spend most of their time in the trees, except for the occasional belly flops into water.
Tucked in the mountains of central China, giant pandas are one of the most well-known bears that live in Asia. (There are also sun bears, sloth bears, and Asian black bears.) There are only around 1000 of these shy animals in the wild, and giant pandas are on the endangered species list.
Tigers are the largest of the big cats and live in India, Southeast Asia, northeast China, and Russia’s Far East. With vision 6x better than humans, tigers rely on their sight above all senses for hunting and do so mostly at night.
Asian elephants are much smaller than their African cousins. They live in tropical forests in Southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and southern China. The herds are typically led by the oldest and largest female, and the males splinter off once they reach maturity.
The name orangutan comes from the Malay word that means “man of the forest.” These highly-intelligent primates live in Borneo and Sumatra and have enormous arm spans – a 5 foot male can measure 7 feet fingertip to fingertip!
Snow leopards live in the mountains of central Asia and are on the endangered species list. Because of their elusive nature, these cats are rarely seen by humans. They are very strong and can jump nearly 50 feet. (FYI – the longest recorded jump by a human is less than 30 feet!)
Though you may have seen king cobra dance to the sounds of a snake charmer, you won’t be so charmed to find one of these in the wild. King cobras are the longest venomous snakes and are found in India, southern China, and Southeast Asia. When provoked, they rear up about a 1/3 of their length –they can be up to 15 feet. That means you’ll have 5-foot tall snake staring you down with the other 10-feet coiled behind. No, thank you.
Australia and Oceania are home to some of the world’s cutest and most dangerous animals. You’ll want to make sure you encounter some of these during a trip down under…and avoid others at all cost!
No trip down under would be complete without seeing a kangaroo! These marsupials have strong hind legs, and gray kangaroos can hop over 35 miles per hour. A newborn kangaroo is tiny (think: size of a cherry) and immediately climbs into its mother’s pouch where it stays for 10-11 months before emerging.
Though a koala is often called a koala bear, it actually is not a bear at all! Like kangaroos, koalas are marsupials. These cute creatures live in eastern Australia and sleep up to 18 hours a day – talk about #napgoals.
The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard, reaching 10 feet long and 300 pounds. They prey on deer, pigs, and larger animals and have saliva riddled with bacteria that will kill even humans if bitten. Komodo dragons live in Indonesian islands, including Komodo, Gili, and Rinca.
When you think of Australia you can’t help but think of Crocodile Dundee and The Crocodile Hunter, so naturally crocs are on our list. Saltwater crocodiles (or “salties” if you’re in Australia) are the largest of the crocodiles. They can grow to be over 20 feet long and weigh over 2000 pounds – crikey!
Though dingoes are associated with Australia, they actually live in many parts of Southeast Asia as well. These wild dogs are abundant on the continent and are sometimes considered pests.
Tasmanian devils live in Tasmania, the island off the southeast coast of Australia. They are marsupials that behave much like their Looney Tunes’ character Taz – feisty and belligerent. These animals have one of the strongest bites and growl, scream, and show their teeth when threatened.
What do you get whenyou mix a duck and an otter? A platypus! These apt swimmers feed on worms, shellfish, and insects in the water but are not so graceful on land. They are one of the only two mammals that lay eggs.
When you think of a trip to Europe, you don’t exactly think of wildlife encounters, but below are a couple of standouts. (Except of course the always aggressive tourist, throwing bows to get the perfect photo of the Mona Lisa.)
The Eurasian lynx lives in Scandinavia, northern Europe, and parts of Asia. It was nearly extirpated from much of Europe during the 19th Century, like many other animals, but is being reintroduced to the region.
Reindeer (also known as caribou in North America) live in Russia and Scandinavia. When they’re not figuring who will steer Santa’s sleigh, reindeer migrate in herds to the north during the summer and to the south in the winter, sometimes traveling more than 500 miles.
While animals in North America don’t seem nearly as exotic as those of faraway lands, the continent is home to many fauna that live right in our backyard!
Often mistakenly called a buffalo, American bison used to live in massive herds across the grasslands of North America. Now these huge animals live in national parks and reserves, including Yellowstone National Park.
North America is home to several types of bears, including black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears live across North America, as far south as Mexico and north into Canada. Grizzlies live in the Northern Rocky Mountains, Western Canada, and Alaska. Both of these bears hibernate in the winter because their food sources are covered in snow.
The grey wolf is the largest feral member of the canine family. Wolves were misunderstood to be evil and were hunted unfairly (and even exterminated from Great Britain). Conservation efforts have helped restore the wolf population, and they can be found in northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, western Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and northern Idaho.
Moose live in colder regions of North America, spanning from Washington to Maine as well as Canada and Alaska. These tall animals are vegetarians and eat leaves, twigs, and bark. Moose can run very fast and can also swim about at 6 miles/hour. Though bears have the scary reputation, moose actually attack people much more often, charging when they feel threatened.
Aquatic relatives of the elephant, manatees are large mammals that live in warm, shallow waters, like estuaries and rivers around coastal Florida. Manatees are also known as “sea cows,” and they spend 6-8 hours per day feeding on sea grass.
Polar bears live in one of the coldest environments, the Arctic. Unlike other bears, these do not hibernate as they can hunt seals year round. While their fur looks white, it is actually clear and reflects light giving it a white look. Their skin underneath is black and absorbs the sun’s heat to keep them warm.
Bobcats live throughout North America, but they are nocturnal and rarely spotted. They are about twice the size of the average house cat and fierce hunters, preying on animals the same size as themselves or larger.
South America not only has diverse landscapes but also abundant wildlife.
While llama is the general name used for lamoids, there are actually four types in South America: vicuna, guanaco, alpaca, and the domestic llama. Llamas are pack animals, and native people use them to transport goods throughout the region. But be warned – an overloaded or cranky llama will spit!
Anacondas are the largest snake in the world, growing up to 30 feet long and weighing more than 500 pounds. Their eyes and nasal openings are on the top of their heads so they can hide in water waiting for prey.
Jaguars are the biggest cats in South America, weighing up to 250 pounds. They played a big role in the mythology and culture of the ancient world. The Chavin culture regarded jaguars as the symbol for power and strength, and the Mayans believed them to facilitate communication between the living and the dead.
Capuchin monkeys get their name from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, a group of friars who wore brown hooded robes. These monkeys have the look of a brown robe on their body and top of head while their face is lighter. They are found in Central and South America but are sometimes kept as exotic pets.
Though sea turtles aren’t just in South America, green sea turtles can be found in the Pacific coast and in the Galapagos. These are some of the largest sea turtles and can weigh up to 700 pounds!
Sloths live in the jungles of Central and South America. They are extremely slow-moving—topping out at 0.15 mph—and algae grows on their coats as a result. Sloths spend most of their lives living in the trees, but they are also good swimmers.
Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents and can weigh up to 150 pounds and be 4 feet long! They live in savannas and rain forests and escape their predators by swimming away. These highly social creatures live in groups of around 20 but have been found in a pack of nearly 100 – that’s a lot of rodents!
Though many animals we see are on land with us, there is a whole world of creatures under the sea.
Great White Shark
Perhaps one of the ocean’s most infamous inhabitants, great white sharks are the largest predatory sea creatures. They can be found in cool, coastal waters around the world including California, the Northeast, and South Africa. Studies have shown that these sharks are very curious. They bite not necessarily to attack but often just to see what the object is – still not comforting when you have 300 serrated teeth attached to 2000+ pounds of shark coming at you!
Of all the large animals on this list, the blue whale trumps all of them. They can be over 100 feet long –much longer than a school bus – and weigh 100+ tons. (2000 pounds = 1 ton – that’s a ton of whale!) Blue whales are very loud and are thought to be able to communicate to other whales 1000 miles away.
Often mistaken for a jellyfish, a Portuguese man-of-war is actually a siphonophore – a colony of organisms that function together and operate like a single organism. The top of it floats at the surface of the ocean, going whichever way the wind and current take it. Underneath the surface there are long tentacles that average around 30 feet in length and are covered in venomous nematocysts. Though the sting is not fatal, beware that even a detached tentacle can sting.
Orca whales aka killer whales aka Free Willy typically live in cold, coastal waters but have been spotted as far south as the equator. These powerful predators hunt in pods, preying on seals, sea lions, fish, and squid. They communicate through clicks, whistles, and screeches and work together to herd fish, surround a shark, or even knock a seal off ice.
Though there are over 30 species of dolphins, bottlenose dolphins are the most well-known. They live in warm waters around the world and travel in pods of around 100 dolphins. These sleeks swimmers can hold their breath for nearly 30-minutes but must come to the surface to breathe, making sleep a challenge. Dolphins sleep with one-half of their brain and one eye closed at a time and remaining conscious enough to spot predators and breathe – and you think you can’t sleep!