World's 5 cutest wild creatures -- and where to find them
5. Sea otter
Sure, these whiskered weasels of the sea are adorable. But sea otters are as clever as they are cuddly.
It's not just that they use rocks as tools to crack open clams and mussels for food, or even the way they sleep, floating face-up on the surface of the water with tangled kelp anchoring them in place.
It's really the "rafting" that wins you over. Sea otters are sociable, and float together in groups of up to a hundred, frequently clasping paws so that they don't drift away from each other.
At the Sea Otter Beach Front Eco Tours Resort in Port Alice, British Columbia, visitors are taken on day tours to see the wildlife, which naturally includes sea otters.
4. Harp seal
Harp seal babies are covered in a downy, snowy white fur and were thus traditional targets for the fur industry, valued for their fluffy white pelts.
While the import of products made from these "whitecoat" pelts was banned in Europe in 1983, and commercial whitecoat hunting was banned in Canada in 1987, hundreds of thousands of seals are killed each year regardless.
Which doesn't make sense at all, because these things are much cuter alive.
Ecotour company Natural Habitat Adventures offers harp seal expeditions to the Magdalen Islands, off the coast of Quebec,
3. Giant panda
The black and white coloring, the plump derriere, and the contemplative way they chew their bamboo: we could go on and on, listing the qualities that make the giant panda so endearing.
The panda's inefficient dining habits -- although it has the digestive system of a carnivore it eats like a herbivore, consuming up to 38 kilos of bamboo in a single day -- might have something to do with why it is endangered, as their picky diets make them extremely dependent on their habitat to survive.
What with poaching and habitat destruction, pandas have a tough time of it in the wild. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (whose logo is a stylized panda) there are only about 1,600 pandas left in the wild, as shown the Third National Survey Report on Giant Pandas (1999-2003).
2. Philippine tarsier
As the smallest primate in the world, the arboreal, nocturnal Philippine tarsier has all the basic qualities of cute: enormous eyes set in a tiny body no bigger than a human fist and tiny knobbly paws with which it grasps onto tree branches.
Tarsiers are notoriously unhappy in captivity. According to the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, each tarsier needs at least a hectare of space, and captive tarsiers have been known to commit suicide by bashing in their own skulls.
1. Fennec fox
The fennec fox is a sandy nocturnal desert fox, immortalized in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince" as the fox who wanted to be tamed.
As the smallest of the foxes (smaller than the domestic cat), with oversized ears like pumpkin leaves and tiny pointed faces, the fennec fox does look adorably, temptingly tamable.
Consequently commercial trapping is the greatest threat to the fennec fox; it's highly sought after in the captive pet trade and often captured and put on display for tourists visiting the area.
But for the enthusiasts who would rather observe this fox in the wild, there are still fennec foxes who make their homes in the Saharan desert and other dry, sandy areas of North Africa. This might be anywhere from Morocco to Egypt.
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