2 weeks, 23 organisations, 112 countries

World's Favourite Unloved Species

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What is the World's Favourite Unloved Species?

Why is it that all of the cute, handsome and (supposedly) more charismatic species get all of the limelight, while the more slimy, unrefined and strange members of the natural world are overlooked? Wildscreen Arkive’s Love Species campaign is here to change that, raising awareness of the world’s unloved and overshadowed species and getting them some much-needed and overdue affection on the run-up to the most love-filled day of the year, Valentine’s Day.

Twenty-three conservation organisations from around the world nominated a species that they thought needed some time to shine, and wrote a blog to let everyone know why their nominee deserves to be crowned the ‘World’s Favourite Unloved Species’.

After two weeks of ferocious competition, we received over 4,500 votes from 112 different countries and are very pleased to be able to announce the winner.

Here are a few clues about the winning species:

It is found in Australia and Asia…
It communicates by howling…
It has a bushy tail…

What is the No.1 World’s Favourite Unloved Species?

Find out now »

No.1 Dingo

Dingo

Every dog has its day, and this day well and truly belongs to the dingo!

It seems this much maligned and misunderstood canid may just be man’s best friend after all. Dingoes are crucial to their ever-changing ecosystem and many other endangered species within it, helping to control the feral fox and cat population that is threatening numerous species. Unfortunately, due to its carnivorous tendencies, the dingo often has run-ins with livestock farmers and is heavily persecuted throughout its range. Despite campaigns by scientists and conservation organisations, inhumane poison baiting programs continue, endangering the future survival of the dingo and other non-target species which consume the bait.

Continue showing your love for this species and support its conservation! Read the dingo’s blog, written by the Wildlife Land Trust, to find out more about how you can get involved in conserving the species, and how people are already helping.

Nominated by:

Wildlife Land Trust

Dingo facts

  • Despite being commonly known as an Australian species, the dingo is also found throughout Asia.
  • Dingoes live a relatively solitary existence, aside from during the breeding season and occasionally for cooperative hunting large prey.
  • The genetic purity of the wild dingo population is decreasing due to hybridisation with domestic dogs, which poses another risk to this species’ survival.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover for wild dog species on Arkive
Canids »

Dingo conservation organisations:

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No.2 Wildcat

Wildcat

Wildcats are the wild ancestors of the domestic cat, and bear a very similar resemblance to their close relatives, looking like a bigger, musclier tabby cat with a much thicker coat and distinctive markings. There are five subspecies of wildcat across its large range, including the Scotland-based Love Species nominee, which is known to be the biggest. A highly adaptable species, the wildcat can be found in numerous habitat types and is not a fussy eater, taking everything from rodents to young deer.

The original threat to the Scottish wildcat was extensive habitat loss throughout its range, which decimated the population. Today, a small population remains but is threatened due to hybridisation with feral and domestic cats, which is diluting the genetic purity of the species.

Nominated by:

Scottish Wildcat Action

Wildcat facts

  • Scottish wildcats are the largest wildcat subspecies, weighing up to 8 kilograms and having a head-body length of up to 75 centimetres.
  • Wildcats are primarily nocturnal.
  • The wildcat has the largest range of any wild cat.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more wild cat species on Arkive
Wild cats »

Wildcat conservation organisations:

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No.3 Ground pangolin

Ground pangolin

Pangolins are the world’s only scaly mammal and despite their reptile-like looks, their closest relatives are armadillos, anteaters and sloths. Pangolins are crucial to their ecosystems as they help to keep insect populations under control, eating up to 23,000 every single day. They are also ecosystem engineers, digging burrows that provide habitats for other species.

Unfortunately, pangolins have the unlucky title of being the world’s most trafficked mammal, and over a million have been caught and traded in the past decade to supply the traditional medicine and exotic meat trades in south-east Asia.

Nominated by:

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Ground pangolin facts

  • When threatened, pangolins roll into an impenetrable ball, protecting their unscaled underside.
  • The ground pangolin is a surprisingly good swimmer and is often found in areas close to water.
  • The extremely long tongue of the ground pangolin can be extended up to 15 centimetres while feeding, and is retracted into a pouch in the throat when not in use.

Find out more»

Related topics:

Pangolins »

Related species:

Discover other pangolin species on Arkive
Pangolin »

Ground pangolin conservation organisations:

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No.4 Helmeted hornbill

Helmeted hornbill

Hornbills are rather peculiar and prehistoric-looking birds and the helmeted variety is no exception. The helmeted hornbill is the largest species of its kind, armed with a fierce, bright red keratin bill which is used in combat between males when attempting to win access to the best fruit trees.

Unfortunately, this hornbill is targeted for the illegal wildlife trade and demand for the solid helmet-like structure on the upper half of its bill, also known as ‘red ivory’, has increased tenfold. It is thought that around 6,000 hornbills are lost for the trade each year and this trade, paired with habitat loss, has caused this species to be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Nominated by:

World Land Trust

Helmeted hornbill facts

  • While nesting females, using mud, lock themselves up within nesting holes and are completely reliant on their mate to deliver food for them and their offspring.
  • The helmeted hornbill is named for the helmet-like structure positioned on the upper half of its bill.
  • Both male and female helmeted hornbills have a bare, featherless patch on their necks. This leathery skin is red in males and turquoise in females, making the sexes easy to determine.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more hornbill species on Arkive
Hornbills »

Helmeted hornbill conservation organisations:

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No.5 Okapi

Okapi

Despite bearing a very similar pattern to zebra, the okapi’s closest relative is the much taller giraffe and the two species are the only living members of the Giraffidae family. The name okapi translates to ‘forest giraffe’. Endemic to the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo, the okapi is threatened by widespread habitat loss and hunting for bushmeat and for their skins. The presence of illegal armed groups in the areas surrounding the habitat of the okapi is highly detrimental to the conservation of this endangered species, as monitoring and conservation programmes are extremely difficult to implement.

Nominated by:

Tusk Task Force

Okapi facts

  • The okapi was a relatively recent discovery, and was not known to science until 1901.
  • Male okapis have short, hair-covered, rear-facing horns and are slightly smaller than females.
  • To mark their territory, okapis urinate on their front legs, then simply walk around the forest to distribute their scent.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more Giraffidae species on Arkive
Giraffidae »

Okapi conservation organisations:

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No.6 Philippine pond turtle

Philippine pond turtle

One of the rarest and most little-known species in the world, the Philippine pond turtle is found in just five locations. An extremely shy species, this turtle only emerges from its den at dusk and spends the night foraging on aquatic animals and wild fruit.

There are many threats to this Critically Endangered reptile, and its initial decline was thought to be due to habitat loss. As with other freshwater turtles in the Philippines, this species is consumed by the local population and caught to be traded for traditional medicine. Additionally, after its rediscovery was reported in 2004, illegal pet traders began collecting Philippine pond turtles as, due to their rarity, individuals can be sold for up to $2,000 USD. Although the Philippine pond turtle is physically tough, it is highly susceptible to stress and does not do very well in captivity and repeated captive breeding attempts have failed every time.

Nominated by:

Katala Foundation

Philippine pond turtle facts

  • In 2015, the wild population of Philippine pond turtles was estimated at around 2,500 individuals. Shortly after this estimation, 3,800 individuals were confiscated from an illegal wildlife trader who, it is believed, may have captured pretty much every wild turtle that remained.
  • The toes of the Philippine pond turtle are webbed, which is an adaptation to its aquatic lifestyle.
  • The Philippine pond turtle is so rare and little-known that details of its life remain a mystery.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more turtles on Arkive
Turtles »

Philippine pond turtle conservation organisations:

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No.7 Southern two-toed sloth

Southern two-toed sloth

Similarly to the other six sloths, the southern two-toed sloth is a seriously slow moving species, sleeping for up to 20 hours per day and it is known by locals throughout its range as prezoso meaning ‘lazy’. Spending much of its life in the trees, the southern two-toed sloth only descends from its canopy habitat to defecate or swim across water to a more attractive-looking area. Arguably one of the more handsome sloths, this species is found in Central and South American tropical rainforests, from Nicaragua to Brazil.

Nominated by:

Pro Wildlife e.V.

Southern two-toed sloth facts

  • Sloths have an extremely slow metabolism so they sleep for most of the day, and constantly feed for the rest of it.
  • Algae grows on sloth’s coats, giving them a greenish appearance which helps to camouflage them against their leafy habitat.
  • Sloths are mostly solitary animals and will usually only join together during the breeding season.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more sloths and anteaters on Arkive
Sloths and anteaters »

Southern two-toed sloth conservation organisations:

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No.8 Walrus

Walrus

One of the largest pinniped species (the group to which includes carnivorous aquatic mammals such as sea lions, seals and walruses belong), the walrus is famed for its enormous tusks each of which can reach lengths of up to a metre. Incredibly, male walruses can measure up to 320 centimetres from head to tail and weigh up to 1,500 kilograms. Walruses are incredibly social animals, often being found in herds of up to a thousand individuals.

Capable of living in some of the harshest environments on Earth, the walrus is now threatened by the warming climate which is causing the loss of sea ice across the Arctic. The ever-prominent threat of oil and natural resource exploration threatens the walrus and all other species within the Arctic ecosystem.

Nominated by:

Ocean Conservancy

Walrus facts

  • Walruses use their whiskers to scan the ocean floor for shellfish, cephalopods and anything else that they want to eat.
  • Except on the flippers, walrus skin is covered in short, coarse hair that gets sparser in adult males, particularly around the neck and chest
  • The colour of a walruses skin varies depending on what it is doing, appearing pale grey when in cold water, due to reduced blood flow to the skin, but it become characteristically dark red-brown when warm and dry.

Find out more»

Related topics:

Climate change »

Related species:

Discover more pinniped species on Arkive
Pinnepeds »

Walrus conservation organisations:

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No.9 Spotted hyaena

Spotted hyaena

Spotted hyaenas are also known as laughing hyaeanas due to the manic, cackle-like calls that they use to communicate with other members of their clan. Seen as scavengers, they are often put at the bottom of people’s lists of favourite creatures, along with cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies. Many people believe that hyaenas are ugly and sinister and being linked to witchcraft does not do much for their reputation either. However, spotted hyaenas are fantastic mothers, fiercely loyal, wonderfully social and are extremely skilled hunters, not just scavengers as they are commonly believed to be.

Very frequently persecuted throughout their range, spotted hyaenas are often associated with attacks on livestock and are therefore very unpopular with local human populations. As human populations increase and encroach on the habitat of the spotted hyaena further, there will be more incidences of human-wildlife conflict which could threaten the future of this highly misunderstood animal. Community programmes to reduce this conflict and encourage harmony between people and nature could be the key to this species’ survival.

Nominated by:

Ruaha Carnivore Project/Wildlife Poisoning Prevention

Spotted hyaena facts

  • In spotted hyaena society women hold the power and the core of their clan is comprised of related females who form the top hierarchy. Female hyaenas become very masculinised before birth and have three times the level of testosterone as males.
  • Hyaenas are not dogs and are actually more closely related to mongooses and cats.
  • Spotted hyaenas are highly social and intelligent animals, and studies have shown that they are are better at problem-solving and social cooperation than chimpanzees, even solving the problems with non-verbal communication.

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more hyaenas and aardwolfs on Arkive
Hyaena and aardwolf »

Spotted hyaena conservation organisations:

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No.10 Borneo bay cat

Borneo bay cat

This elusive, rare and little-known cat is found exclusively in northern Borneo, although its distribution is thought to have once been spread across the whole island. The Borneo bay cat is probably the rarest of the world's 37 cat species and occurs at a lower density than tigers, clouded leopards and snow leopards, and it has only been recorded in the wild a few dozen times.

The rainforest habitat of the Borneo bay cat is being rapidly converted into agricultural land and illegal logging is prolific in the areas in which it is found, causing an ongoing decline in suitable habitat. Despite scientists knowing so little about the life of this species, there are conservation measures in place which are attempting to protect the habitat of the Borneo bay cat and learn more about it.

Nominated by:

S.P.E.C.I.E.S.

Borneo bay cat facts

  • Fewer than 25 Borneo bay cats have ever been recorded, making it one of the rarest and least-studied cats in the world
  • A rather unusual looking species, the Borneo bay cat is the size of a large house cat but with an extremely long tail
  • There are two different colour variations of the Borneo bay cat, with the red-brown form being more common than the grey-black form

Find out more»

Related species:

Discover more cats on Arkive
Cats »

Borneo bay cat conservation organisations:

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We’ll also be showcasing many more remarkable creatures and wildlife news stories in our regular e-newsletter.

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