choices 41–50
Photo/art [see credits]
all photos taken in wild unless stated
Reason for choice
DR seen?
Brown Bear [Grizzly Bear]
Ursus arctos
[n. Holarctic]
Although its range is widespread throughout northern forests, Brown Bear – and especially Grizzly Bear U.a.horribilis of North America (left) – is a prized and wondrous beast. Watching them catch fish during wild salmon runs was a wildlife spectacle to remember forever.
Ornithorhynchus anatinus
The Platypus is not very large but it is very, very strange. Males have a poison spur on the hind leg. It is aquatic and lives in burrows, coming out to forage at night. The marsupial adaptations in Australia are impressive, but this Monotreme is downright weird.
Puma [Cougar or Mountain Lion]
Felis concolor
[New World
Widespread across North & South America, this is the "ghost cat." I live where it is common, and still have not seen one, but Vladimir Dinets has many photos [including Florida panther, left; see his wild cats of world]. Some say this cat is "too common" for this list, but it is the epitome of New World wilderness. Seeing one would be a highlight.
Odobenus rosmarus
Giant tusks on the world's largest seal make the Walrus unique and impressive. Packs live on remote ice flows in the Arctic. Populations were over-hunted for ivory for decades but are now making recoveries. Walrus can dive to 350' and forage for mollusks (but not with the tusks!).
Spectacled Bear
Tremarctos ornatus
[Andes of South America]
Sometimes called "Andean Bear," this is the only native bear in South America. It is probably the world's most endangered bear. This shy, boldly-patterned bear, named for the buff ring around each eye, is very difficult to see in Andean foothills or adjacent rain forest.
Babyrousa babyrussa
This large wild pig of tropical forests in Sulawesi and surrounding islands is rare and elusive. The male's upper tusks emerge through holes in the snout and curve back toward the forehead, producing a totally unique look. Video in David Attenborough's Life of Mammals is very impressive — it would be a treat to see it in the wild.
any Lion-Tamarin
Leontopitheus sp.
[coastal Brazil]
Lion-Tamarins are small, marmoset-like monkeys of the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil. The four species are colorful, acrobatic, and serious endangered: Golden L. rosalia (left), Golden-headed L. chrysomelas, Black L. chrysopygus, and Superagui L. caissara. Most exist only found in isolated research reserves.
any Mesoplodon beaked whale
Mesoplodon sp.
Among 20+ species in family Ziphiidae (beaked whales), 12-14 are in genus Mesoplodon. Although widespread, they are very difficult to see due to their off-shore habitat and deep-diving behavior. Considered near-mythical by sea-going wildlife watchers, any observation is highly prized. Other ziiphids are also very cool.
Yes; 2 of 12-14
Brown Hyena
Hyena brunnea
[s. Africa]
Nocturnal, elusive, and with a complex and interesting matriarchal social life, Brown Hyena is almost never seen by tourists. They are incredible scavengers with the ability to gnaw bones left behind by other carnivores, including diurnal hyenas. I've wanted to see these fascinating beasts ever since reading Cry of the Kalahari.
Sable Antelope
Hippotragus niger
[e. & s. Africa]
A strong argument can be made that this is the most impressive of all antelope. It can be found in some parks in east and southern Africa without huge effort, but at other places (like Kruger) can be elusive. I wanted to see one ever since staring at natural history dioramas with stuffed Sables in San Francisco & New York as a kid.
any rare bat or
impressive bat
Of 1100+ bat species (20% of all mammals), many are local or endangered. Rarest (and smallest) may be Bumblebee (Kitti's Hognose) Bat Craseonycteris thonglongyai of Thailand/Burma. Seeing any rare bat is exciting, and especially those with big ears or odd faces. Mine was Townsend's Big-eared Bat Corynorhinus townsendii (left).
Yes; 1 rarity


Narwhal Monodon monoceros
[Arctic oceans]
Golden-rumped Elephant-Shrew Rhynchocyon chrysopygus
[coastal Kenya]
any Solendon Solendon cubanus/paradoxus
[Cuba, Hispaniola]
Dingiso Tree Kangaroo
Dendrolagus mbaiso
[w. New Guinea]
Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus
[south Asia]

Links to all of the "top 50":



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 Brown Hyena: I really enjoyed the stories of Brown Hyena 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 but Delia Owens was working on the elusive and little known Brown Hyena, and added much to our knowledge of it.

* For Sable Antelope: John Frederick Walker's (2002) A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola is an outstanding read. It focuses on the incredible history of the endangered variani subspecies of these regal beasts: the giant sable antelope of Angola, a majestic, coal-black quadruped with breathtaking curved horns over five feet long. to quote one review: "It is an enthralling and tragic tale of exploration and adventure, politics and war, the brutal realities of life in Africa today and the bitter choices of conflicting conservation strategies." Well said, and the review didn't even mention the tangled world of taxonomy and scientific rivalry. All wrapped in one story of one impressive antelope.

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

* Patricia Barrett painted Ginko-toothed Beaked-Whale Mesoplodon ginkgodens (from MacDonald's 1984 Encyclopedia of Mammals)
* Fiona Reid painted Spectacled Bear (from Eisenberg's 1989 Mammals of the Neotropics, Vol. 1)
* Rowland Ward sketched the head of Babirusa
* Francois Feer painted Golden Lion-Tamarin (from Emmon's 1990 Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide
* Peter Schouton painted Dingiso Tree Kangaroo (from Flannery, Martin & Szalay's 1996 Tree Kangaroos: A Curious Natural History)

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

* Hans & Judy Beste photographed Platypus (Australia)
* Vladimir Dinets photographed Puma in Florida (U.S.A.)
* Don Roberson photographed Brown Bear (Alaska), Walrus (Svalbard), Sable Antelope (Namibia), and Townsend's Big-eared Bat (California)
* photo of Brown Hyena is from Wikipedia (uncredited), and may be in captivity

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