BEST MAMMALS OF THE WORLD
choices 21–30
#
Species
[range]
Photo/art [see credits]
all photos taken in wild unless stated
Reason for choice
DR seen?
21
Lion
Panthera leo
[Africa & s. India]
The "King of Beasts" is the top predator of the African veld. It is so familiar and yet, upon encountering one in the wild, so very awe-inspiring. Numbers have been in decline but it is still easy to see in African national parks and at its one Asian stronghold in the Gir Forest of s. India. As the largest cat, is is often the most-sought-after mammal by first time travelers to Africa.
Yes
22
Pygmy Hippopotamus
Choeropsis liberiensis
[west Africa]
Very rare and local, most remaining populations survive in Sierra Leone or adjacent countries (Nigerian subspecies extinct). In behavior it is more like a tapir than a hippo, spending much time inside the forest but swimming often as well. It is primarily nocturnal; the few that I knew who've seen it used a night-scope for brief views, at best.
No
23
Aardvark
Orycteropus afer
[Africa]
Entirely nocturnal and rarely seen, Aardvark is so unique it is placed in its own Order, Tubulidentata. It feeds entirely on termites and ants, and digs burrows for sleeping during the day. Surprisingly large (size of German shepherd dog), it is exceedingly memorable when ones encounters it in the wild.
Yes
24
Saola
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
[Vietnam/Laos]
Not discovered until 1992, this mysterious forest bovid is confined to the Annamite Mts. on the Vietnam/Laos border. Genetic evidence shows it more closely related to nilghai than to cows. Only about a dozen have been found so far (photo from a 'camera trap'). Like Okapi, this is a large, very shy, and an "impossible-to-see" forest animal.
No
25 any Pangolin
family Manidae
Manis, Smutsia & Phataginus sp.
[Africa & s. Asia]
Pangolins are strange 'artichoke-animals' of Africa & s. Asia that feed on ants and termites. Some of the 8 species are terrestrial, others arboreal, and all are solitary with a social life dominated by scent. It is incredible lucky to come upon any of them. They are heavily hunted; Asian species [genus Manis] are now endangered. No
26
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
27
Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes
[c. Africa]
Genetically our closest relatives, Chimpanzees are almost too well known from Hollywood or research. Yet wild chimps are often hard to find (but not so hard to hear) in the lowland forests of central Africa. They make sleeping nests but move sites daily. Their social system provides insights into our own ancestry.
Yes
28
African Wild Dog
Lycaon pictus
[e. & s. Africa]
Sometimes called "Painted Wolf," this pack predator was once common and widespread. Habitat loss, hunting, and disease have reduced the extant population to a very few remote pockets. The pack hunting techniques are very impressive.
Yes
29
Giant Anteater
Myrmecophaga tridactyla
[s. Central & South America]
Although its range is broad, this unlikely combination of tail and snout is elusive and its numbers are relatively small, reaching highest densities in remote undisturbed pampas. It is the strangest beast in the New World.
Yes
30
Indri
Indri indri
[e. Madagascar]
The largest of Madagascar's lemurs, the Indri is nearly tail-less but lives in the canopy. The antiphonal haunting calls are a real forest experience. Their range is now fragmented as numbers decline; the Perinet Reserve was established to help save them. There are about a dozen very colorful lemurs (patterns of black, white, red or orange) in Madagascar.
Yes

Links to all of the "top 50"

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RESOURCES & CREDITS

FURTHER READING:
This is not an exhaustive bibliography but rather personal choices of books, mostly in the popular literature genre, but all fact-based and well-written. I do not have favorite literature for all species, but for these see:

* For Lion: There are hundreds of books. So far I've most enjoyed the stories of lion research in Botswana in Mark & Delia Owens' (1984) Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa's Last Great Wilderness [Mark Owens' project was on lions; Delia Owens was working on the elusive and little known Brown Hyena]. A good natural history is George Schaller's (1976) Serengeti Lion: a Study of Predator-Prey Relations, and I enjoyed Craig Packer's stories of working on the Serengeti lion project in Into Africa (1994).

* For Saola: William deBuys's (2015) The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth's Rarest Creatures is excellent. In 1992, in a remote mountain range, a team of scientists discovered the remains of an unusual animal with exquisite long horns. It turned out to be a living species new to Western science — a saola, the first large land mammal discovered in fifty years. Rare then and rarer now, a live saola had never been glimpsed by a Westerner in the wild when William deBuys and biologist William Robichaud set off to search for it in central Laos. Their team endured a punishing trek up and down white-water rivers and through mountainous terrain ribboned with the snare lines of armed poachers, stripping it of wildlife. It some ways it recalls Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, with the same disappointing result, but without the Buddhist mysticism and optimism.

* 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 Chimpanzee: Obviously, the popular works are Jane Goodall's (1967) My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees and her (1996) My Life with the Chimpanzees, both accounts of her field work, and then her more formal natural history in the (1980) The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior. I also enjoyed Craig Packer's (1994) stories of working with her at Gombe in Into Africa.

* For African Wild Dog, several good stories are in Mark & Delia Owens' (1984) Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa's Last Great Wilderness.

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 Bonobo (from Haltenorth & Diller's 1980 Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar)

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

* Rita Carratello photographed Aardvark (South Africa; this is a video capture)
* Don Roberson photographed Lion (Tanzania), Chimpanzee (Uganda), Indri (Madagascar), and Giant Anteater (Brazil)
* Babette Alfieri of Kuyenda Bushcamp photographed Ground Pangolin Manis temmincki (South Luanga NP, Zambia)
* African Wild Dog photo is from Wikipedia (unattributed)
* Saola is from a 'camera trap' and published by IUZN (unattributed)

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Page created 1-6 June 2002, updated 20 Aug 2002, revised 29 Aug 2010 & 18 Feb 2021
all photos & text © Don Roberson
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