Around the streets of Karachi, we see animals like lonely stray dogs, wild mewing cats, pigeons and the occasional rat or two.
Maybe if we’re lucky, we can spot butterflies fluttering past some bushes. But there is an entire animal kingdom beyond the few ordinary creatures we see everyday.
You have creatures ranging from pink river dolphins from Singapore, to coconut crabs found in Christmas Island, to lazy sloths that hang from the branches of rainforests in the Amazon. But then you have weirder, stranger animals, ones you have probably never heard of before today, which don’t get as much attention as the other endangered favourites like pandas or polar bears.
You find them deeper in the depths of the animal kingdom, animals that may not even look like animals… these strange species, these weird wonders, which like hundreds of other animals, are endangered and are in need of publicity and support.
Here are some of the weirdest looking endangered creatures in the world:
Yes, believe it or not, the purple frog is actually purple! Also called the doughnut frog, one of the most unusual things about this creature is that it spends most of the year burrowed underground, only surfacing for two weeks. It has a cry that sounds like that of a chicken, a tiny snout like that of a pig and was only discovered in 2003, in Kerala, India!
The purple frog is thought to have lived with dinosaurs, being the sole surviving member of an ancient group of amphibians that evolved some 130 million years ago! This colourful creature is facing threat due to the loss of its forest habitat to coffee and ginger plantations.
Is it jelly? Is it meat? Is it a… fish! Yes, branded as the world’s ugliest looking fish, this sad-looking creature is commonly found off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania and lives at depths up to 800m, and is rarely seen by humans. Due to the intense pressure on its habitat, the flesh of the blobfish has a density slightly less than water, which allows it to float easily above the sea bed!
But these inedible fish have certainly got a lot to frown about. They are increasingly being caught in deep-sea trawling nets set out for crabs and lobster. If we’re not careful, this frowny-faced fish could disappear from our waters forever.
The narwhal, also called the ‘unicorn of the sea’, because of its extraordinarily distinctive long tusk, is a species of white whale that live in the Canadian and Greenlandic Arctic waters. Its tusk can be up to nearly 10 feet long and can weigh up to 22 pounds! Narwhals can dive up to at least 800 metres (2,625 feet) over 15 times per day, the deepest dives recorded for a marine mammal!
The narwhal horns were believed to have magical powers, and during the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I of England received a carved and bejewelled narwhal tusk worth £10,000. Sadly, these marine unicorns are being affected by hunting for meat and ivory by the Inuit people of northern Canada and Greenland, as well as climatic changes.
Flamingo tongue snail
This colourful critter looks more like a piece of art than a marine animal! But the flamingo tongue snail is a small sea snail which lives on soft corals in the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Surprisingly, though, the colourful markings you see are not its actual shell! The colours are just a layer of live tissue which is spread out to protect its real shell, which is creamy white in colour. When it feels threatened, however, it withdraws this bright layer and reveals its whitish shell. So, safe to say, it literally ‘turns pale’ with fright!
These sea snails under threat as snorkelers and scuba divers collect them, mistakenly thinking the its bright exterior is an actual shell.
This river dolphin, called the Amazon Pink River Dolphin, is known for its distinctive pink and grey colour. It has a ridge along its back in place of a fin, but its heavy body is surprisingly flexible. These dolphins rely on echolocation to find their food, which consists of over 40 different species of fish found in the Amazon River. They can grow to be larger than humans!
They are also considered to be the most intelligent of dolphins, and they even have a brain capacity 40 per cent larger than that of humans! Sadly, these mammals face extinction due to pollution and over fishing.
It looks like a cross between a hippo and an elephant. The marine mammal is related to both the elephant and the manatee. This odd creature can live for up to 70 years! Dugongs are found in warm coastal waters from the western Pacific Ocean to the eastern coast of Africa. They have limited vision in their tiny eyes, but very acute hearing and long lungs, which extend as far as their kidneys! It has a split-whale-like tail which it can perch on underwater. But for years, poachers have been catching and killing the animal for its meat, skin, oil and bones. It is a species very vulnerable to extinction.
The clown frog
Its gorgeous marbled patterns remind me of tie-and-dye T-shirts. This frog may look pretty to the eye, but beware! Its colourful patterns act as a warning to predators of its poisonous flesh. The funky frog is found only near Quepos, Costa Rica, as changes in temperature and rainfall forced them to disappear from around Panama. It is now considered to be critically endangered.
No, it’s not a performing seal balancing a balloon on its nose! This rare species of Arctic seal is an animal found only in and around the deep waters of the North Atlantic from Russia to Canada, and the males of this species can inflate their sacs that are a foot or more in diameter, even as big as its head. The nasal balloon can be inflated through one or both nostrils and is bright red.
They do this when they are angry, feel threatened, or simply when they feel like showing off!
Sadly, though, due to global warming affecting its habitat, many scientists consider this animal to be endangered.
Leafy sea dragon
If you are ever scuba diving along the coast of Australia and you feel something brush your shoulder, something you think looks like a piece of seaweed. Stop and think again! Although the water all around you is filled with pieces of drifting seaweed, this one is no ordinary sea plant. Leafy sea dragons, related closely to the family of seahorses, are fish which have leaf-like protrusions attached all over their bodies, with only tiny eyes and transparent fins to distinguish them from a piece of floating seaweed!
What a clever way to camouflage and hide from predators!
They are named after dragons in Chinese mythology, although, unlike dragons, they have no teeth or stomach, and feed on mainly soft shrimp through their snouts. However, these creatures are quickly becoming endangered due to pollution and collection by scuba divers and collectors who use them in alternative medicine.
It looks like a worm or a snake, but it has four little limbs on its body. The odd olm is a blind, snakelike amphibian which is endemic to the waters of Central and South-eastern Europe. It is also known as the ‘human fish’ because the colour of its skin resembles the skin colour of humans.
These animals can live up to a hundred years, and the most fascinating thing is that they can go up to 10 years without food! The olm is very sensitive to changes in its environment and due to contamination of water and over-collecting by enthusiasts; it has been listed as a vulnerable species, and has been included in a Slovenian Red List of Endangered Species.
So that was the last of my list. But there are still hundreds of thousands of animals out there, some that we know of and some still waiting to be found! If we want to continue to be amazed by the unique creatures around us, we must help to preserve them. We should also take this information as an opportunity to think about our vast, wide world and so many interesting things about it which we haven’t yet discovered and appreciated, and take a moment to marvel at the beauty and intricateness with which God has designed things for us.
The world is a beautiful place, with such beautiful things. And it’s up to us to help it stay that way.