What Is the Rarest Animal in the World?

What Is the Rarest Animal in the World, Unsplash

Ever wonder what is the rarest animal in the world? Then you’ll have to look at the most endangered species. Several species are rare, but most come down to endangered animals that are now being protected by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund.

These animals slowly became endangered due to various reasons, with most pertaining to humans illegally hunting, or poaching, them. Other issues like climate change or war for specific reasons cause some of these animals to become endangered. Keep reading to learn more about which is the rarest animal in the world.

10. Hawksbill Turtles

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

One of the rarest animals in the world is the Hawksbill turtle. The Hawksbill turtle is one of the seven species of marine turtles and is found in nearshore tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Though it’s difficult to estimate their population since they are true ocean wanderers, the most recent assessment has them at 8,000 to 10,000, leaving them critically endangered.

Over recent years, it’s said that these turtles have been reduced by at least 80% due to accidental captures in fishing gears, nesting habitat degradation, and coral reef damage. Similar to other oceanic wildlife, these turtles also became endangered due to human causes like poaching to illegally trade their shells, plastic pollution, and climate change.

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9. African Forest Elephants

While a population of 415,000 might seem like a lot, that’s not the case for elephants. Almost 10 million African elephants used to roam Africa, but after decades of poaching the population has decreased extremely.

Along with this, there are two subspecies of African elephants: Savanna elephants and Forest elephants. African Forest elephants are half the population as their relatives and suffer an even greater loss because of this.

While elephant poaching is trending downward, there is still enough going around that is consistently decreasing the population, making them labeled as critically endangered. Plus, the threat of habitation loss due to human population expansion and land conversion is also a threat, as elephants have less space to roam freely.

8. Black Rhinos

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

Between the years 1960 and 1995, Black rhinos suffered a dramatic loss due to large-scale poaching. Only 2% survived the onslaught, creating a critically endangered species.

Thankfully, conservation organizations intervened and helped them grow their population. However, since the 1990s, Black rhinos are still one of the many rhino species that are considered critically endangered, with a population of only 6,487.

Unfortunately, only three subspecies now survive, with the fourth, known as the Western black rhino, being declared extinct in 2011. Still to this day, even with conservation organizations, the biggest threat is poaching for their own, with 10,000 African rhinos being killed over the last decade.

7. Yangtze Finless Porpoises

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

This endangered animal is named after its home, the Yangtze River. The longest river in Asia was home to two different species of dolphins: the Baiji dolphin which was declared extinct in 2016, and the Yangtze Finless Porpoise, one of the rarest animals in the world.

The Baiji was the first dolphin species that became extinct due to humans, which was caused by overfishing, thus destroying the food supply for the Baiji dolphins. The population of the Yangtze Finless porpoise is critically low, sitting at around 1,000 to 1,800, and has moved from its original spot in the river.

Thankfully in 2021, China upgraded the finless porpoises to “First-level protected species” to ensure that they don’t go extinct like their close relatives.

6. Tapanuli Orangutans

The Tapanuli orangutan weren’t a distinct species until 2017, and have two other relatives. Out of the three, along with Bornean and Sumatran, the Tapanuli is the most endangered, as well as the rarest animal according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Only a single isolated population exists in the world, restricted to the tropical forests of the Batang Toru ecosystem on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Due to the loss of their habitat from agriculture, mining, and hydroelectric and geothermal development, the species is sitting at a population of only 800. Over 40% of North Sumatra where the apes can be found were lost between 1985 to 2007.

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5. Cross River Gorillas

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

Along with orangutans, gorillas are just as rare as apes. The subspecies of western gorillas known as Cross River gorillas have a population of about 200 to 300 amount. While similar to Western Lowland gorillas, they have subtle differences in the skull and tooth dimensions.

With humans encroaching on their territory, mainly for clearing forests for timber to create fields of agriculture and livestock, the gorillas have lost their homes. Poaching has also occurs in the forests as well, leaving the gorillas in a detrimental position.

4. Sunda Island Tigers

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

The Sunda Island tiger, or Sumatran tiger, is the smallest tiger subspecies in the world. With an estimation of only 400 Sunda Island tigers, they’re also the rarest animal in the world, and can only be found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Thanks to palm oil plantations that have expanded agriculture, the Sunda Island tiger’s habitat slowly decreased, causing human-tiger interaction and conflict.

Urban development and illegal logging also impacted the reach of these habitats. And while laws have strengthened over time, there hasn’t been a decrease in poaching due to the intense market for products.

3. Amur Leopards

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

With only 84 in their population, Amur leopards are the rarest animals in the world. While their population is slowly increasing over the years, they’ve been critically endangered since 1996. They can only be found in small regions of the far east of Russia and north-eastern China currently.

They’ve faced multiple threats to their survival, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, prey scarcity, and transportation infrastructure such as roads. Another huge problem, along with so many other rare animals, is poaching. Due to their beautiful fur, they’re hunted illegally very often.

Thankfully there are many conservation efforts to help them grow in population, like the Land of the Leopard National Park where the leopards received a safe haven in 2012 in Russia.

2. Javan Rhinos

The rarest animal on land belongs to the Javan rhino. Out of the most threatened rhino species, which is a total of five, this is by far the most endangered. There are 76 individuals alive who live only in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

The World Heritage Site is the last remaining refuge of Javan rhinos, but even so the land also suffered from the invading Arenga Palm, which leaves the rhinos with even less food to eat and habitat to roam. Before they began getting poached, they would roam throughout northeast India and southeast Asia.

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1. Vaquitas

what is the rarest animal in the world
World Wildlife Fund

What is the rarest animal in the world? That would be a porpoise, specifically the Vaquita. The small porpoise wasn’t discovered until 1958, and already they’re on the brink of extinction with only 10 individuals alive.

Vaquitas are often caught or drowned in gillnets used by illegal fishing operations in marine protected areas within the Gulf of Mexico. Even over the last few years, their population has dropped drastically. Vaquitas are known for their secretive behavior, which makes them difficult to spot even for seasoned researchers.

And due to their restrictive habitat, it’s hard to do extensive research on the animal. Hopefully with the right resources and funding, conservation, such as the Porpoise Conservation Society, can start protecting these endangered cetaceans.


While there are only ten shown above, the list is long. As society expands, there is a higher demand for intensive resources, which creates a decline in wildlife. The WWF, or World Wildlife Fund, reports that global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% on average between 1970 and 2022, an astronomical number.

The Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, has redlisted more than 44,000 species for being under threat of extinction. These animals are just a small amount compared to the many. Learn how you can do your part in protecting these endangered animals.

Nikole Stewart is a writer and editor with three years of experience writing keen articles on topics such as... More about Nikole Stewart