Animals

Amazing Animals Only Found in One Place in the World

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Break out your passport, because these amazing animals are only found in one location in the world, often far-flung and exotic locales.

San Francisco garter snake

San Francisco Garter Snake / Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia

REPTILES4ALL/SHUTTERSTOCK

Even those who aren’t reptile fans can’t deny that the stunning reddish-orange and blue stripes are beautiful. San Fransisco garter snakes make their home in San Mateo County and the northern edge of Santa Cruz County. Unfortunately, their habitats have been hit hard for a long time by agricultural, residential, commercial, and recreational development—and they’re also popular with illegal collectors, two factors that landed the snake on the endangered species list in 1967. They like to hang out around vegetated ponds with open hilly areas to take in the sun, eat, or hide in rodent burrows, and pose no threat to humans. They can grow to be 51 inches long and their favorite food is the red-legged frog, also on the endangered species list.

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Matschie’s tree kangaroo

Found only in the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, Dendrolagus matshiei, is a plush brown marsupial with golden paws, belly and tail that spends most of its life in the treetops munching leaves.

Like other kangaroos, female Matschie’s tree kangaroos carry and nurse their joeys in a pouch.

Blue-footed booby

COURTESY JME THOMAS

“There are about 20,000 breeding pairs of blue-footed boobies, the most common type of booby in the Galápagos,” says Fernando Diez, marketing manager at Quasar Expeditions. You can’t miss their pretty blue feet, which come from the carotenoid pigments in the fish they eat. And what about the rest of the name, “booby”? According to Diez, it comes from the Spanish word “bobo,” meaning foolish, because the bird’s waddle is a bit clumsy on land. But when it comes to flying and swimming, well, they can dive from 80 feet above the ocean when hunting prey.

Male Wilson’s bird

The male Wilson’s bird of paradise, Cicinnurus respublica, boasts spectacular plumage, including a turquoise crown, emerald green breast and tail feathers that spiral outward like Captain Hook’s waxed mustache.

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For his mating display, the male prepares an arena by obsessively clearing away loose leaves and twigs.

This rare species lives only on two tiny islands—Waigeo and Batanta—in the Raja Ampat chain, a remote collection of islands off West Papua, an Indonesian province of New Guinea. 

The Gelada

A primate found exclusively in the highlands of Ethiopia, the gelada, Theropithecus gelada, is a baboon-like monkey.

Males sport a luxurious golden mane, and both males and females have red triangles of bare skin on their chests.

Geladas spend the bulk of their days sitting in fields eating grass, and by night they climb onto the ledges of cliff faces to sleep.

Smallest Chameleon

The world’s smallest chameleon, Brookesia micra, was only recently discovered living exclusively on a tiny rock islet called Nosy Hara, off the northern tip of Madagascar.

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Fully grown, the tiny lizards reach barely 1.2 inches long, and their extreme dwarfism is thought to be the result of their limited range. The chameleons have specialized to live among leaf litter in the cracks of the island’s rocky terrain.

Proboscis monkey

COURTESY JME THOMAS

These unique monkeys are endemic to Borneo and are endangered due to rampant deforestation. While most of us may think monkeys hang out in trees, the proboscis monkey loves the riverside too and is quite the swimmer. “We saw two jump into a very wide river and swim across, and not a minute after they landed, a large 15-foot crocodile went out searching for more, hoping there were some stragglers! It was crazy to think they’d take such a risk, but they enjoy splashing around even just for fun,” says jme (pronounced like Jamie) Thomas, Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue and animal conservationist.

Sifaka lemur

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COURTESY JME THOMAS

The white and brown (and sometimes golden) sifaka lemur resides in Madagascar and is quite happy to be there. They are known as the dancing lemurs because, when they’re not in trees, they are hopping on two legs with their arms in the air. “It is impossible not to laugh while watching this! It is really ridiculous,” says Thomas. She’s observed that the sifaka are shyer than ring-tailed lemurs, so she was pleasantly surprised when one approached her. “They typically tend to stay at least ten to 15 feet away, but I stretched out my arm and one gently took my hand and started to lick it!”

Pygmy elephant

COURTESY JME THOMAS

These are undoubtedly the cutest elephants you’ll ever see, and they’re only in Borneo. “It is believed they evolved from a sultan releasing captive elephants into the jungle in the 18th century, but regardless, they are considered a subspecies that is evolutionarily different from other Asian elephants,” says Thomas. “They are also endangered and have a limited range of habitat in Borneo of around 186 square miles or so.”

Texas blind salamander

A rare and unusual amphibian, the Texas blind salamander, Eurycea rathbuni, lives entirely in the persistent darkness of water-filled caves connected to the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas. It has no eyes or skin pigment, and frond-like external gills protrude from its neck.

Despite its lack of vision, heightened senses make it a skilled predator—it roams the underwater habitat hunting tiny snails and shrimp by sensing pressure waves in the water.

Guam rail bird

COURTESY JOHN ALTDORFER FOR THE NATIONAL AVIARY

The Guam rail bird is extremely good at walking and even running through thick vegetation without making much noise, which is a good thing since it’s not the best flier. That wasn’t a problem, originally, for these seven-ounce birds because there were no natural predators on the island to bother them, says Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. But then, brown snakes were introduced to the island after World War II and the birds didn’t have a way to protect themselves. “Biologists rounded up the remaining 21 birds and began a breeding program in partnerships with zoos,” says Ashe. “Today the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Guam Department of Agriculture are working to bring rail back to its native home.” For now, the Guam rail population is living on the islands of Rota and Cocos.

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Matschie’s tree kangaroo

Found only in the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, Dendrolagus matshiei, is a plush brown marsupial with golden paws, belly and tail that spends most of its life in the treetops munching leaves.

Like other kangaroos, female Matschie’s tree kangaroos carry and nurse their joeys in a pouch.

African penguin

COURTESY SINCLAIR MILLER/MARYLAND ZOO

Talk about rare! The African penguin calls South Africa its home and is the only breeding penguin species on the whole continent. “Breeding takes place in southwest Namibia and western and southern South Africa and occurs at 28 colonies: 24 on islands and four on the mainland,” Ashe says, adding that less than two percent of the population exists in the wild today. Unlike the penguins in Antarctica fending off frigid temps, the African penguin battles heat on the toasty African coastlines. It’s not uncommon to see the penguins sticking out their white chests to minimize the heat absorption when they’re stuck on the shore incubating eggs or tending to newborn chicks.

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