When it comes to animals, we all love the cute, fluffy variety – but what about the all the other critters? The spiky, scaly, slimy, and even scary ones?
On International Animals Day, which is celebrated around the world on October 4, we want to showcase the weird and wonderful side of nature. Here are some unusual species we think deserve some love. Happy International Animals Day!
This odd-looking creature is also known as the long-nosed monkey because of its ridiculously large nose. It is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey which is endemic – meaning it’s unique to a specific geographic location – to the southeast Asian island of Borneo.
The Proboscis monkey is one of the largest monkey species from Asia, and their noses can grow to be longer than 10cm! Their funny-looking noses are believed to be used for attracting mates, as the females are attracted to louder vocalisations – and the bigger the nose, the louder the call!
What fantastic horns you have! The markhor, or screw horn goat, is a large species of Capra native to Central Asia, Karakoram and the Himalayas. A male’s horns can grow up to 160cm long, while a female’s grow up to 25cm. Markhor are built for mountainous terrain, and can be found from 600 to 3,600 metres above sea level!
They eat a diet of mostly grass during spring and summer, and leaves and twigs in winter. During their mating season (which is also in winter), the males fight over females by lunging, locking horns, and pushing each other off balance.
Fun fact: the markhor is the national animal of Pakistan! It has also been listed on the IUCN Red list as Near Threatened since 2015.
Oriental dwarf kingfisher
Why settle for one colour when you can rock them all at once? This vibrantly-coloured bird knows how to make a fashion statement. It has a yellow chest and glowing, bluish-black wings and back, which give it its other name: the black-backed kingfisher. It is also sometimes known as the three toed-kingfisher (most birds have four toes).
The species can be found across Southeast Asia, South China and the Indian Subcontinent, where it prefers to make its home in dense, shady forests close to small streams. Although it is just 13 centimetres long, with its flashy feathers, this kingfisher is hard to miss.
Woah, we wouldn’t want to be this guy’s dentist! The gharial, also known as a gavial or fish-eating crocodile, dwells in the sandy banks of India’s freshwater rivers. Males can grow as long as six metres. What’s more, these crocs have around 110 teeth in that long, thin snout, specially adapted for catching their favourite food: fish.
If this toothy reptile reminds of something out of a Jurassic Park movie, that’s because the species is believed to have first evolved around 42 million years ago – so it’s basically a living dinosaur. Sadly, the gharial is under threat due to loss of habitat, lack of food, and getting caught in fishing nets.
The aye-aye is actually just a long-fingered lemur, with a special, thin, extra-long middle finger. It is a species from Madagascar, and is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It spends most of its life up in trees. The aye-aye is known for its unusual method of finding food: it taps on trees to find grubs, gnaws holes in the wood, and uses its middle finger to pull out insects – sort of like a woodpecker, except it doesn’t have a sharp beak.
The aye-aye is an omnivore and mainly eats seeds, fruits, nectar, fungi, insect larvae, and honey. It also lives high up in the trees, so there’s no need to worry about coming face-to-face with these eerie-looking creatures. We certainly wouldn’t want to meet one in the dark.
With a nickname like sparklemuffin, we wouldn’t expect the Maratus jactatus to be any less dazzling. This eye-catching arachnid is a type of peacock spider, and an Australian member of the jumping spider family. Just like peacocks, the males take part in a courtship display in which they show off their brightly-coloured bums to attract females. If you ever find yourself near one of these magnificent spiders, you’d be able to spot it right away because of how flashy they are.
Feel free to stick around to admire it, too, because although they are venomous, their jaws are too small to puncture our skin. So we’d be safe, but other spiders and crickets would not be so lucky to come across this creature.
Cassowaries are ratites, or flightless birds. There are three species in the world, including the southern cassowary which happens to be the third-tallest and second-heaviest living bird. Female cassowaries are larger and more brightly coloured than males (this doesn’t happen often in the animal kingdom), with some growing to 2 metres tall, and weighing as much as 60kg.
All cassowaries are shy and live deep in forests. They look harmless, but think twice before messing with one! They’re known as “the world’s most dangerous bird”, and have a long nail on their inner toe which can cut a person’s arm off.