6 cute creatures you might never get to see

6 cute creatures you might never get to see

6 cute creatures you might never get to see

Updated 24 June 2014, 13:27 AEST

These six mammals must be among the cutest animals ever, and they’re all at home in our region – but their survival is under threat.

Poaching, predators and deforestation threaten thousands of species across the world. Australia alone has about 100 critically-endangered animal species, and the worst rate of mammal extinction of any continent. We thought it was a good time to find out about some of the little-known species in danger across Australia, Asia and the Pacific. 

Western quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii) – AUSTRALIA
Western quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii) – AUSTRALIA
The western quoll has been reintroduced in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Photo: ABC Licensed: Jonathon Webb

This spotted marsupial is about the size of a domestic cat and could once be found across more than 70% of the Australian mainland. In recent times the only place you would be lucky enough to see a western quoll was in one small corner of south-west Western Australia. Now, after an absence of more than a century, the species has been re-introduced to South Australia's Flinders Ranges where a 20-year baiting program has reduced fox numbers. In addition to foxes, the feral cat poses a real threat to the quoll's existence.

Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) – AUSTRALIA
Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)  – AUSTRALIA
The numbat is listed as an endangered species in Australia. Photo: cc Wikipedia, Helenbella

This petite marsupial of about 27cm in length can still be found in Western Australia where it is protected by conservation programs. Although it once roamed the southern parts of Australia its range is now limited to just a few small colonies. It is listed as an endangered species. The main threats to the numbat's survival are feral predators like cats and foxes, as well as loss of habitat, and fire. Re-introduction to fox-free areas began in 1980 and has so far led to an increase in population. Numbats, also known as Walpurti, are insectivores and eat termites exclusively. An adult needs to eat up to 20,000 termites a day!

The numbat is protected by conservation programs and an emblem of Western Australia

Photo: cc Wikipedia, Martybugs
Tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus) – PACIFIC & AUSTRALIA
Tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus) – PACIFIC & AUSTRALIA
The tree kangaroo breeds in treetops in the monsoon season. Photo: ABC Licensed, Robert Herrick

This beautiful animal inhabits the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea and far northeastern Queensland. Because it lives high in the trees it is extremely hard to spot. Even people researching tree kangaroos have a hard time tracking one down!

The 15-known subspecies of tree kangaroos breed in treetops in the monsoon season, giving birth to only one joey per year. The joey spends around 275 days in the pouch, followed by a weaning period of up to 240 days – one of the longest marsupial offspring and maturation periods. Only a small proportion of tree kangaroos live in protected areas so hunting, habitat degradation and predators have endangered many species.

The Tree kangaroo inhabits Papua New Guinea and Australia

Photo: ABC Licensed, National Zoo and Aquarium, Ann Eldridge
Pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus) – INDONESIA
Pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus)  – INDONESIA
The pygmy tarsier was thought to be extinct until recently. Photo: cc Wikipedia, mtoz

This gremlin-like creature can leap 40 times its own tiny body length and swivel its head 180 degrees. The tasier's eyes cannot move and are literally larger than its stomach. The tarsier was thought to be extinct because no one had spotted one since the 1920's. But this carnivorous primate, weighing less than 60 grams, was recently rediscovered in the forests of Indonesia, putting the end to an eight-year hunt for the species. Two males and one female were accidentally captured while trapping rats. A fourth was caught but managed to escape. All three were of breeding age and were fitted with special tracking collars, giving scientists hope for the species' survival on the island of central Sulawesi.

Red panda (Ailurus fuglens) – CHINA, MYANMAR, INDIA
Red panda (Ailurus fuglens)  – CHINA, MYANMAR, INDIA
In southwest China the red panda are hunted for their fur. Photo: cc Wikipedia, marshmallowbunnywabbit

The red panda is marginally larger than a domestic cat and makes a gentle whistling sound to communicate. Like the giant panda it cannot digest cellulose, so to survive it must consume large amounts of bamboo. The average lifespan of the red panda has been known to reach 15 years, but its average lifespan is about eight to ten years. The population continues to decline and is threatened for many reasons, including poaching, loss of habitat and inbreeding. In southwest China red pandas are hunted for their fur, especially for the highly-valued tails which are used to make hats.

The population of Red pandas continues to decline

Photo: cc Wikipedia, Greg Hume
Slow loris (Nyticebus pygmaeus) – BANGLADESH, INDIA, PHILIPPINES, CHINA
Slow loris (Nyticebus pygmaeus) – BANGLADESH, INDIA, PHILIPPINES, CHINA
This venomous omnivore keeps its poison in a sac by its elbow. Photo: cc Wikipedia, grolltech

With its huge eyes and cute nose, who would guess this is the world's only venomous primate? The slow loris secretes a toxin from a gland on its upper arm, which it licks before biting an aggressor, injecting the toxin into the skin. But despite this unique defence it's not much of a fighter –  the slow loris will often freeze and hide its face to avoid contact. An omnivore, it feeds on birds, reptiles, insects and fruit.

The slow loris is found in Bangladesh, north-east India, the Philippines and China, where demand from the exotic pet trade, traditional medicine and deforestation have been the greatest causes for its decline. All five species of slow loris are now endangered or vulnerable to extinction.