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10 of the Weirdest Animals on the Planet

Published 30 March 2016

Alexandra Gregg

Our planet is bursting with an incredible array of wildlife: the Big Five in Africa, the iconic spirit bear in British Columbia, blue whales in Pacific Mexico. That said; it can be hard to grasp just how many animals live here, not to mention how peculiar some of them are. Without further ado, we present some of the weirdest animals our blue planet has to offer – prepare to be baffled.

Irrawaddy dolphin

Irrawaddy dolphin

The Irrawaddy dolphin looks as though it has a constant smile on its face. And who could blame it? Thought to be a sacred animal by the Khmer and Lao people, it provides crucial dolphin-watching ecotourism while helping keeping a 118-mile stretch of the Mekong and 1,100 species of fish healthy.

Where can I see it? The Mekong River in particular, as well as coastal areas of South and Southeast Asia and in the Ayeyarwady (Myanmar) and Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) rivers.

Flying lemurs

Flying lemurs

They may have lemurs in their name, but these gliding mammals are not true lemurs. Otherwise known as colugos or cobegos, they live in trees, using flaps of extra skin to float from branch to branch, soaring from high vantage points. On first glance they look a bit clumsy, drowning in an oversized fur coat and awkwardly scaling tree trunks, but as soon as they stretch their baggy skin into vast wings they transform into a graceful sight.  

Where can I see it? The rainforests of Southeast Asia.

Gerenuk

Gerenuk

Gerenuk means ‘giraffe-necked’ in Somali – we’ll give you one guess as to how this Waller’s gazelle earned its nickname. Its elongated collar allows it to reach for high-growing plants and it can even stand on its hind legs to feed, making it different to the average ground-eating antelope. They’re very vocal too, making a buzzing sound when worried, a whistle when fed up, and a bleating sound when in serious danger.

Where can I see it? In dry regions within the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia), as well as the African Great Lakes region.

Star-nosed mole

Star-nosed mole

Most reckon the star-nosed mole is ugly, but we think its pink-tinged snout tentacles are rather cute – in a weird sort of way. These so-called ‘rays’ are pretty impressive too; boasting over 25,000 receptors that help this miniature mammal identify its food. Talk about super senses.

Where can I see it? Canada, northeastern USA.

Soft-shell turtle

Soft-shell Turtle

Ever wondered what a shell-less turtle looks like? Well the soft-shell turtle, with its smooth, leathery back, is as close as it’s going to get and even we – a team of wildlife lovers – think they look pretty odd. There are several variations, from the Florida, Chinese or Ganges soft shells to the spiny soft shell. All breeds are almost entirely aquatic and use their long necks and pointy noses to snorkel along the surface of water when needed.

Where can I see it? It depends on the breed, but the most likely sightings are in North America, Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Taiwan.

Jerboa

Jerboa

This long-eared cutie pie is more than your average rodent. For starters, they’re nocturnal and they live in the desert. They’re pretty speedy too and have long hind legs for jumping several feet at a time and evading any nasty predators. Basically, they’re miniscule kangaroos. Their small stature means they’re pretty elusive too and they weren’t even caught on camera until eight years ago. In fact, they’re so adorable, we’re not even convinced they actually exist.

Where can I see it? China and Mongolia in the Gobi Desert. Apparently.

Guineafowl puffer

Guineafowl puffer

Pufferfish aren’t that unusual, but this not-so-little fella differs from the rest. When fully ‘puffed’ it grows to a staggering 50cm in length. That’s HALF A METRE. Enough said.

Where can I see it? The Indo-Pacific.

Red Panda

Red Panda

Oft overshadowed by the black-and-white behemoth of the same name, the vulnerable red panda looks more like a fox or a feline than its ring-eyed cousin. It’s not much bigger than the average house moggy actually and is also referred to as the red bear-cat. It sleeps in the trees and mainly roams the wilds at night.

Where can I see it? It’s native to the eastern Himalayas and south-west China.

Sun Bear

This majestic creature might be our favourite (shhh, don’t tell anyone!). He’s the smallest of all the bear breeds and is a bit of recluse – so don’t expect him to be an easy spot. That being said, there have been more than enough sightings to build a strong picture of the sun bear’s characteristics: they’re thought to be monogamous, have extraordinarily long tongues for extracting honey from bee nests, and have even be known to build treetop platforms for sleeping in.

Where can I see it? Southern China, eastern India and Indonesia. For guaranteed sightings, visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Proboscis Monkey

Proboscis Monkey

Most will know the proboscis monkey for the males’ unusually large, drooping nose, but what’s even weirder is what they do with it! This odd appendage is used to attract a suitable mate, helps the primate emit loud honking sounds and doesn’t improve their sense of smell in the slightest. Who knew? Officially endangered, just 8,000 proboscis monkeys are left in the wild.

Where can I see it? This animal is endemic to the island of Borneo.

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