My picks for the best 50 mammals of the world are at the heart of this web project, but those are just personal choices. I am very impressed by big cats, great apes, huge whales, and rhinos. Others have different views. I asked two dedicated mammal observers and another birder who has a passion for mammals, to independently chose their "top 50" or "top 30" mammals, using the same general criteria that I had developed. They graciously accepted the challenge. It is quite interesting to compare and contrast their choices.

Vladimir Dinets is a widely traveled naturalist whose foremost passion is mammals (photo, right, in the Gobi Desert). He has his own fabulous web site with many stories of his adventures around the world, liberally illustrated with his own photos. He provided this list of his top 50 mammals in 2002:

1. Blue whale (widespread): "#1 only with underwater view," says Vladimir
2. Snow leopard (Asia)
3. any Gorilla (Africa)
4. Giant panda (China)
5. Killer whale (widespread)
6. Wild camel (China, Mongolia)
7. Polar bear (Arctic)
8. Giant anteater (Neotropics)
9. Narwhal (widespread)
10. Sumatran rhino (SE Asia)
11. Jaguar (Neotropics)
12. Okapi (Congo-Kinshasha)
13. Marsupial mole (Australia)
14. Aye-aye (Madagascar)
15. Dugong (widespread)
16. any Clouded leopard (SE Asia)
17. Mountain beaver (US, Canada)
18. Saola (Vietnam, Laos)
19. Chinese river dolphin (China)
20. any golden cat (Asia, Africa)
21. any solenodon (Cuba, Espaniola)
22. Fossa (Madagascar)
23. Pygmy chimp or Bonobo (Congo-Kinshasa)
24. Tasmanian devil (Tasmania)
25. Wolverine (widespread Holarctic)
26. any Mesoplodon beaked whale (widespread oceans)
27. Takin (Asia)
28. any striped rabbit (SE Asia)
29. Starnose mole (US, Canada)
30. Maned wolf (Neotropics)
31. Chiru (China)
32. Monte opossum (Chile)
33. Ribbon seal (Russia, Alaska)
34. African wild ass (Ethiopia)
35. Naked bat (SE Asia)
36. Golden monkey (China)
37. Pallas' cat (Asia)
38. Mountain tapir (Andes)
39. Long-eared jerboa (China, Mongolia)
40. Russian desman (Russia, Ukraine)
41. Pygmy marmozet (Amazon Basin)
42. Spectacled bear (Andes)
43. any Crateromys cloud rat (Philippines)
44. Franciscana (Argentina, Uruguay)
45. Giant otter shrew (Africa)
46. Ross' seal (Antarctica)
47. any New Zealand bat (New Zealand)
48. Andean cat (Andes)
49. Golden potto (Africa)
50. any pudu (Andes)

Jon Hall is avid mammal-watcher who has traveled the world extensively in search of them (photo right from Qinling Mountains, China; Jon with his Chinese guides and hosts). His great website provides a tremendous amount of information for those hoping to experience mammals in the wild. Jon has already seen ~800 mammals in the wild; it is possible that he, Vladimir, and Richard Webb have the highest personal mammals lists. Jon forwarded his choices for the "top 30" mammals of the world in 2007.

1. Snow Leopard
2. Giant Panda
3. Dingiso
4. Wolverine
5. Giant Armadillo
6. Aardvark
7. African Pangolin
8. Okapi
9. Narwhal
10. Bactrian Camel
11. Spectacled Porpoise
12. Giant Anteater
13. Sun Bear
14. Babirusa
15. Brown Hyena
16. Eurasian Lynx
17. Tiger
18. Ghost Bat
19. Wild Dog
20. Numbat
21. Walrus
22. Leopard Seal
23. Bilby
24. Killer Whale
25. Polar Bear
26. Platypus
27. Aye-aye
28. Gorilla
29. Musk Ox
30. Wild Ass


Blake Matheson is currently in law school but he has already forayed to the western Palearctic, to the Neotropics, and to the Philippines (photo, right) in search of birds. He created his own "top 100 birds of the world" while studying at Oxford, and has become increasingly interested in mammals in addition to birds. He provided these "top 50" choices in 2007.

1. Tiger
2. Sperm Whale
3. Polar Bear
4. any wild Elephant
5. Blue Whale
6. Okapi
7. Snow Leopard
8. any Rhinoceros
9. wild Bactrian Camel
10. male Narwhal
11. Jaguar
12. Giant Panda
13. Giant Anteater
14. Gorilla
15. Aye Aye
16. Gaur
17. any Pangolin
18. Pygmy Hippopotamus
19. Saola
20. Walrus
21. Maned Wolf
22. Orangutan
23. Orca
24. Przewalski’s Horse
25. Platypus
26. either Pan Ape
27. Beluga
28. Cheetah
29. any Loris
30. Indri
31. Colugo
32. Giant River Otter
33. Balinadae whales [Bowhead and Rights]
34. Wolverine
35. Giant Otter-Shrew
36. any Clouded Leopard
37. Gelada
38. Koala
39. Either Wild Bison
40. Any Wild Tapir
41. Giraffe
42. Long-beaked Echidna
43. Babirusa
44. any Rhynchocyon Elephant Shrew
45. any Sirenied
46. Franciscana
47. Tibetan Antelope [Chiru]
48. Elephant Seal
49. any Wild Ass
50. Takin

Ten mammals were rated among the world's best by all of us: Snow Leopard, Gorilla, Giant Panda, Polar Bear, Orca (Killer Whale), Okapi, Giant Anteater, Aye-aye, Wolverine, and Narwhal, although we all had different ideas where these ranked. Tiger was ranked #1 by Blake and me, but for Jon it was #17, and Vladimir didn't include it at all. Although there was support by at least one other for 43 species on my "top 50" list (86%, if accounting liberally for the use of the "any unicorn" concept), some of my choices received no support at all, including Lion, Leopard, and Brown Bear. Orangutan, any Elephant, and Chimpanzee (under "any Pan ape") received support only from Blake. Presumably these are considered "too easy" by the others, but I'd certainly rather see any of these great mammals than any camel, horse, or bat, no matter how rare. [And I like bats a lot!]

The most congruent lists were those of the two birders, Blake and me, with 65% of the species chosen the same as the other's listing. The least congruent, even compensating for the differences between picking 30 or 50 species, was between Vladimir and Jon, with 40% found on each other's list (in other words, over half the choices on each of these lists were different than the other person).

Altogether, some 98 species or species groups were picked among the 4 different lists, which combined would serve well as a list of pretty much the "top 100" mammals. Two species were unanimous picks of the other three, but not by me: wild Bactrian Camel and truly wild Wild Ass.

I very much appreciate the time these three experts gave to considering my questions, and for permitting the publication of their excellent choices.

D. Roberson (Nov 2007)

Page created 3-4 June 2002, revised & expanded 15 Nov 2007
all photos & text © 2007 Don Roberson