Sadly, this species falls into the category of prehistoric animals which are critically endangered. The gharial, otherwise known as the gavial, boasts a terrifying mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. It has been reported that fewer than 200 gharials are left in the wilds of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
These gigantic and often dangerous lizards can weigh as much as the average man. The venomous reptilian species can be found in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park. The small islands that make up this park are stunning and offer a wealth of magnificent flora and fauna which continue to dazzle many curious tourists.
With its large, sharpened beak, fierce gaze and impressive wingspan, the shoebill stork is one of the oldest birds to still walk the planet. Due to habitat destruction and poaching, the species has been noted as vulnerable to extinction. You can still catch a glimpse of these majestic birds in protected areas of Uganda.
You might already be familiar with the one-humped camels that are still used as a mode of transport in the Middle East, but did you know that they evolved from the two-humped bactrian camel? These camels still roam the plains of the Mongolian Gobi Desert. Bactrian camels have been around for the last two million years. With their fat- and water-storing humps, these animals are able to withstand long, dry, food-free periods. There are said to be only 1,000 of these creatures left in existence.
Echidnas look like a cute cross between a porcupine and an anteater. The species are one of the few monotremes, meaning they are categorized as mammals but still produce eggs instead of giving birth to live young, just like their equally adorable relative, the platypus. These nocturnal animals are notoriously difficult to find in the wild. The highly endangered species have been roaming the earth for an estimated 17 million years. They can be found in captivity in multiple zoos across New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania.
Musk oxen have been walking the snowy Alaskan slopes for an estimated 187,000 years. Though their populations have been slowly declining in recent years, there are still several thousand musk oxen in Alaska. The species are most commonly spotted in Nome, Alaska, where they have been noted to wander near the neighboring tundra town. The oxen’s wool is some of the warmest and finest in the world and is said to be even rarer and considered more valuable than cashmere.
The vicuña is the ancestor of the modern-day alpaca. The two relatives look similar but vicuñas have a distinctive color pattern, with a white underbelly. Revered by the Incas, once the empire fell the species almost fell to extinction due to extensive hunting. Fortunately, thanks to the dedicated work of conservationists, the population now thrives in the wild. They can be found in the tropical mountain ranges of Peru.
The chambered nautilus can be still be found on the ocean floors of Australia and Indonesia. These otherworldly-looking animals are amongst the oldest sea creatures in the world. Fossils of this particular species have been found from 500 million years ago.
Unlike the more common hog, Babirusas boast an impressive pair of curled tusks. The species have made many appearances in 35,000 year old Indonesian cave paintings. Today, you can venture on babirusa-watching excursions in the Nantu Forest and Tangkoko Nature Reserve in Indonesia.
Tapirs largely resemble pigs except for one key characteristic: they have a short, elephant-like snout used for roping food into their mouths. Tapirs are apt swimmers who use their snouts as snorkels when traversing the local waters. Bizarrely, the species is closely related to horses and rhinoceroses. After 23 million years on earth, there are now only five remaining tapir species that can be found in in Asia, and more commonly in Central and South America.
There are two sub-species of this ancient mammal, the Northern White Rhinoceros and the Southern White Rhinoceros. Tragically, the Northern White Rhino population has dwindles to only include a few females, meaning the species will inevitable become extinct in our lifetime. The Southern White Rhino has been more successfully conserved, with 17,000 rhino still in existence. Both sub-species are under constant threat of poaching. The sought-after horns are used for traditional African and Asian medicinal uses. Conservationists have even gone as far as to remove the animals horns in an attempt to reduce the incentive for poaching. You can see the Southern White Rhino today in Kruger National Park in naturally-rich South Africa.
One of the great sightings of a tropical Pacific reef dive is the reclusive wobbegong shark. The creatures are spectacularly camouflaged to look more like an algae-covered rock than a fish. These sharks are 11 million years old. A few wobbegong shark attacks have been reported in recent years, though no fatalities have occurred. If you’re not up for a dive in the Pacific reef, these sharks can be seen in the Sydney Aquarium in Australia.
Horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest species on earth, having been around for 445 million years. The inconceivably old species were scuttling across the earth’s coasts before the continents had formed. Today, you can find millions of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay each May as they gather for the annual breeding season.
Though everyone is familiar with glacier-wandering polar bears, few people know fossilized bones of the species revealed that the animal is 120, 000 years old. Churchill, Manitoba in Canada is one of the spots for tourists to potentially sight the rare and increasingly endangered creatures.
The tuatara might look like your average iguana, but the reptile is said to have existed at the same time as dinosaurs, an estimated 225 million years ago. The primitive species have no apparent ears but are still able to hear sounds, similar to that of fish. Tuataras can be rarely spotten in New Zealand.
Cassowaries look like something out of a Jurassic Park film. These vividly-colored bipedal birds have a fin-like ornament atop their heads. The aggressive species is also feared for their sharp talons. The flightless birds have been around for 60 million years. If you’re particularly lucky and quiet, you can spot cassowaries in northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea.
Chinese Giant Salamander
The Chinese Giant Salamander is an estimated 170 million years old. The gigantic salamander is also noted as the largest amphibian in the world; some of the creatures of able to weigh up to 110 pounds and grow six feet in length. These amphibians have befallen a grave fate due to poaching for food and traditional medicine. The Prague Zoo does house a few of these wondrous creatures.
The animal chamois (pronounced sham-wah) first made itself known in western Europe during the last ice age. Images of the species been found in cave paintings and manmade carvings dating back to this period. Chamois are widespread throughout the Alps and the Pyrenees, where they can often be spotted along the popular hiking trails.
Despite its misleading name, the whale shark is not a whale. It’s the largest known shark, who’s been swimming the world’s oceans for an estimated 28 million years. Found all around the equator, they can be seen in captivity on a visit to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. You can even swim alongside one of these majestic mammals fear-free; they are filter feeders and are completed disinterested in human flesh.
The lake sturgeon is yet another one of the world’s intriguing ancient fish who is believed to have swam around with the dinosaurs. The 150 million year old species still swims the waters of the United States today. The scaleless fish can grow to weigh a hefty 300 pounds. With their dwindling wild populations, sturgeons can reliably be seen at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Little is known about this strange-looking mammal, but scientists agree that the Okapi is perhaps the oldest mammals left on Earth. The secretive species was only discovered by Western scientists and conservationists in 1900. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Democratic Republic of Congo houses some of these magnificent animals.
The ancient saiga antelope is another odd-looking mammal that still roams the wilds of central Asia. Having died off in North America, the critically endangered species has been reduced to a population of only 50, 000. The Askania Nova biosphere reserve in the Ukraine does have acquired a small herd of the intriguing animal.
The 300 pound freshwater alligator gar is another sea creature we’d be fearful to come across while swimming the seas of the southern U.S. The 100 million year old species has a mouthful of razor-like teeth. The Tennessee Aquarium is home to a few of these reclusive water-dwellers.
With their formidable antlers, caribou look as if they’ve wandered straight out of the ice age. These unique mammals are said to have evolved two million years ago. Caribou herds can be found in certain areas throughout A more reliable way to spot these animals is by taking a trip to the Denali National Park.
Siberian Musk Deer
The small Siberian musk deer might appear harmless but on closer inspection, the animals have 4-inch-long fangs. Due to their impressive set of teeth, the spicies is commonly referred to as “vampire deer.” Thankfully, the deer are strict herbivores. The three and a half million year old animals are incredibly difficult to find in the wild, but a pair of two two male musk deer can be seen at Ranua Wildlife Park in the Finnish Lapland.
These beautiful, long-legged birds are said to have been around for over 2 million years. Sandhill cranes migrate by the tens of thousands each spring to their breeding grounds in Nebraska. In one of the greatest shows in the animal world, as if by some secret and unseen signal, the birds all depart at once.
With their long whiskers and rotund body shape, the walrus is one of the more endearing oceanic species. Swimming the sea floor, the 600,000 year old mammals spend their days vacuuming up clams and crustaceans. Walruses are known to gather in huge concentrations is Alaska. The cantankerous animals can be viewed from a safe distance by boat.