The Top Ten Cutest Endangered Animals
An endangered species is a type of animal or plant species that is likely to become extinct fairly soon, if action is not taken to prevent it. An organization known as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies species based on their “conservation status”. A “Least Concern” species is one that is not directly facing extinction, while a “Near Threatened” species may be headed in the direction of becoming endangered. “Vulnerable” species are at high risk of becoming endangered, “Endangered” means they are facing extinction in the near future, and “Critically Endangered” means they are in immediate danger of extinction.
Many species become endangered for a variety of reasons. Habitat destruction due to human encroachment, pollution, inability to adapt to changes brought on by climate change, overhunting – the list goes on and on. In 2012, the IUCN’s “Red List” of the most at-risk species contained more than 3,000 animals and over 2,600 plants.
With such a large number of animals on the list, it’s a given that they aren’t all going to be the most visually appealing critters. While you may not shed a tear for the plight of the Three-banded Centipede Snake, the Peacock Tarantula or the Horrid Ground Weaver (yes, that’s its real name), these creatures are still in grave danger of extinction, and deserve to be afforded the same respect as other, less creepy-crawly animals.
Still, there’s no denying it, some endangered species are just plain cute. And while we don’t want to see any animals disappear forever, it’s the cute critters that will tug on your heart strings the most. Let’s take a look at some of the cutest animals that are in danger of disappearing, and what can be done to help them.
Vote for the Cutest Endangered Species
But before we take a closer look at the top 10, why not vote on which one you think is the cutest so we can see if readers agree who's the clear winner!
The Koala is sort of an honorable mention here because it’s technically considered a “Vulnerable” species. However, the wildfires raging across Australia in 2019 and 2020 have destroyed much of its habitat, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this marsupial – as well as many other Australian animals – moved up on the list.
While sometimes referred to as a Koala “Bear”, the Koala is actually a marsupial, which means it is a mammal that gives birth to its young before they are fully developed, and their babies then continue to grow in a pouch near their mother’s stomach until they’re fully grown. Other marsupials include Kangaroos, Wombats, and the Tasmanian Devil.
After living in their mother’s pouch for about six months, baby Koalas will migrate to the mother’s back, where it stays while it learns to grip and climb tree branches.
Koalas spend most of their lives in trees, and mostly eat one thing – eucalyptus leaves. This diet doesn’t provide the Koala a lot of energy, so they spend a great deal of time – up to 20 hours a day! – sleeping.
Cuteness Factor: With its soft fluffy fur, floofy ears, and distinctive bulbous nose, the lazy Koala is a cutie patootie for sure.
Cause of Endangerment: Koalas were hunted historically in Australia for their pelts and meat, but conservation efforts in the early 1900s helped boost their numbers. Today, they face threats including habitat destruction, as well as habitat fragmentation, which occurs when roads and other development breaks up their natural habitat, causing populations to become divided. Wildfires have also harmed Koala populations.
Now, hear us out. The Pangolin may not appear “cute”, in a traditional sense. It’s not furry and fluffy, instead covered in an armor-like set of scales made of keratin. But they’re still pretty danged cute! They have the ability to roll up into a ball when threatened, and they often walk around on two legs in a hunched over stance that has been described as “always look[ing] like they’re about to hesitantly present some bad news to their sovereign lord.”
Pangolins are also called “scaly anteaters”, because they look like anteaters wearing suits of armor. However, recent genetic evidence has shown that they aren’t closely related to anteaters, and their closest living relatives are the Carnivora, an order that includes cats, dogs, hyenas, bears and seals.
Cuteness Factor: They may not be cute in the most traditional sense, but Pangolins are definitely adorable in their own unique way. They just look so humble, like they don’t want to be a bother to anybody, how can you not love them?
Cause of Endangerment: Pangolins face many threats, including habitat loss due to deforestation, and illegal hunting for meat and scales. They are known to be the most trafficked animals in the world. Their scales are believed by some to have medicinal properties, and while this is not true, it hasn’t stopped the demand for Pangolin scales in China and Vietnam. Over one million Pangolins are thought to have been trafficked over the past 10 years. There are eight species of Pangolin, and four are listed as vulnerable, two are endangered, and two are critically endangered.
There are two species of Chinchilla, and they’re both fantastically adorable. Unfortunately, they’re also both endangered. Chinchillas are rodents with some of the thickest, densest, and softest hair in the animal kingdom.
The two species are the Long-tailed and Short-tailed Chinchillas, and as you may have guessed, they can be told apart by the length of their tails. Of the two, Long-tailed Chinchillas also have larger ears, while Short-tailed Chinchillas have thicker necks and shoulders.
Long-tailed Chinchillas have been domesticated, and can sometimes be found as pets. However, they are not an easy animal to take care of and require lots of exercise and specialized care.
Cuteness Factor: Chinchillas are incredibly cute, thanks to their fluffy soft fur and inquisitive little faces. They’ve also got adorably tiny feet.
Cause of Endangerment: Chinchillas have been historically hunted by humans for their unique fur. Their fur softness and uniform color make them very desirable for fur coats. This has sadly led to the extinction of a third species of Chinchilla, and caused the other two to be very endangered in the wild. Though they are now protected, their numbers are so small that habitat destruction now threatens them with extinction.
How You Can Help: Save the Wild Chinchillas is an organization that focuses on…well, saving wild Chinchillas. They are seeking to restore habitat in Northern Chile, South America, so that Chinchillas can spread and grow their numbers.
7. African Penguin