BEST MAMMALS OF THE WORLD
choices 11–20
#
Species
[range]
Photo/art [see credits]
all photos taken in wild unless stated
Reason for choice
DR seen?
11
Asian Two-
horned Rhino

Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
[Sumatra & Borneo]
Often termed "Sumatran Rhino," it lives in the foothills of mainland Malaysia, Sumatra & Borneo; its dense hair permits existence in colder climes than other rhinos. Like African rhinos, it has two horns. It is quite different than one-horned Asian rhinos of lowland floodplains. Only 300 are still extant; it is now exceptionally rare and elusive.
No
12
Okapi
Okapia johnstoni
[c. Africa]
This mysterious and little-known forest animal is only one of the few even-toed ungulates to make my "top 50" list. It seems next-to-impossible to see in the dense Congo Basin rainforest. It is unique in many ways; its closest relative is the Giraffe.
No
13
Javan Rhino
Rhinoceros sondaicus
It is almost impossible to see the lowland one-horned rhino in the forests of s.e. Asia, as it is one of the rarest mammals on earth. A recent estimate is just 60 rhinos in two tiny populations — one in Java and the other in Vietnam. The few remaining are in protected areas, but still face threats of poaching for their horns.
No
14
Cheetah
Acinonyx jubatus
[e. Africa]
The fastest mammal in the world as it chases down antelope in short sprints, the Cheetah is still quite seeable in some e. African parks. But its range (once including w. Asia) has been disappearing and fragmenting for years. Brothers often hunt together. A superb, sleek, and beautiful cat.
Yes
15
Indian Rhino
Rhinoceros unicornis
[tropical s. Asia]
The huge one-horned Indian Rhino has incredible medieval-appearing 'body armor.' Although Endangered, it is seeable at Kaziranga NP, India or Chitwan NP, Nepal, but almost no where else.
Yes
16
any wild Elephant
Loxodonta or Elephas
[Africa & India]
There are 3 species of elephants: the huge Savanna Elephant Loxodonta africana of e. & s. Africa (left), the smaller Forest Elephant L. cyclotis of c. & w. Africa, and the Indian Elephant Elephas maximus. Each is incredibly impressive to observe in the wild, but numbers continues decline [see my elephant page].
Yes; 3 of 3
17
Aye-aye
Daubentonia madagascariensis
[Madagascar]
The Aye-Aye is the stuff of legends on Madagascar, persecuted as 'bad luck' to anyone who sees it. Actually it is a fascinating nocturnal lemur with a tremendously elongated middle finger for extracting grubs hidden deep in crevices. It is everywhere rare, local, and little known.
No
18
Leopard
Panthera pardus
[Africa & tropical Asia]
Leopards can be reasonable common in parts of Africa or s. Asia, but seeing one is another thing. They are elusive and often nocturnal. Despite months in their habitat, I have seen only a handful. Beautiful and powerful, they have always been among my favorite animals. Loners except during mating, they personify wild cats.
Yes
19
Bonobo
Pan paniscus
[c. Africa]
Also known as "pygmy chimpanzee," this is the forgotten great ape. It is restricted to rainforest south of the Congo River in c. Democratic Rep. of Congo and, until recently, almost entirely unknown. Now that some studies have occurred, we learn that its social system is quite unlike the Chimpanzee that it generally resembles.
No
20
Wolverine
Gulo gulo
[Holarctic]
The world's largest mustelid (family of weasels, otters, badgers), the Wolverine is an absolutely fearless carnivore. It has a huge home range and seems impossible to see without an aircraft or radio-tracking. A very few in the alpine Sierra Nevada are California's rarest mammal.
No

Links to all of the "top 50":

or

RESOURCES & CREDITS

FURTHER READING

* For Savannah Elephant: Mark & Delia Owens' (1989) The Eye of the Elephant is a riveting account of their attempts to stop elephant poaching in North Luanga Park, Zambia, and has much about elephant behavior and biology.

* For Aye-aye: Gerald Durrell's (1993) The Aye-Aye and I: A Rescue Mission in Madagascar is engaging and entertaining, and there are many life history facts here and there.

* For Leopard: Some old stories are in Jim Corbett's (1946) Man-Eaters of Kumaon (about India; see Tigers, above) but I haven't get read a Leopard book that got my full attention. Some nice Leopard stories are in Mark & Delia Owens' (1984) Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa's Last Great Wilderness, though.

* For Bonobo: Frans de Waal's (1997) Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape, illustrated lavishly with Frans Lanting's photos, brought this species out of obscurity. It turns out to be a fascinating ape with much open and promiscuous sexuality by both sexes. Its social system lacks the male-dominated hierarchy so typical of aggressive Chimpanzees. From a human perspective, it is almost like looking at an alternative approach to our own origins....

* For Wolverine: Douglas Chadwick's (2010) The Wolverine Way is one of the best written mammal books ever. Focusing on his experiences doing Wolverine research at Glacier NP, Montana, his long hours in the field gave him time to consider larger concepts about life in general. Less philosophical than The Snow Leopard, but personal and insightful. The reader also learns about everything there is to know about Wolverines, and one become astonished at their power and determination. A great book.

CREDITS:
All artworks are copyrighted by the artist (as detailed below) and are either used with permission or are posted here in reliance on the non-commercial "fair use" doctrine; all rights are reserved by the artist

* Helmut Diller painted Okapi and Bonobo (from Haltenorth & Diller's 1980 Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar)
* Bruce Pearson painted Aye-aye (from Burton & Pearson's 1987 Collins Guide to Rare Mammals of the World)
* Karen Phillipps painted Asian Two-horned Rhino (Payne & Francis's 1985 Field Guide to Mammals of Borneo)
* Walter Weber painted Wolverine (from National Geographic's 1960 Wild Animals of North America)

All the photographs are copyrighted by the photographer (as detailed below) and are used with permission; all rights are reserved to the photographer

* Alain Compost photographed the Java Rhinoceros [published IUZN website, fair use doctrine]
* Don Roberson photographed Cheetah (South Africa), Indian Rhinoceros (India), Savannah Elephant (Tanzania), and Leopard (Kenya)

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Page created 1-6 June 2002, updated 20 Aug 2002, revised 30 Aug 2010 & 7 Dec 2014
all photos & text © Don Roberson
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