If you want to see this amazing ape in the wild you will have to do more than just buy a plane ticket to Borneo or Sumatra. You will also have to do your part at home by purchasing products that use palm oil from sustainable sources. Orangutans are critically endangered, and their remaining populations are quickly succumbing to habitat loss due to the oil palm plantations being generated at an alarming rate. If you do get a chance to head to this part of the world, head to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo to get a chance to see wild orangutans in conjunction with community-based conservation efforts taking place by the locals who live there.
4) American Bison
Bison are big animals with big personalities. Despite the bulls of this species tipping the scales at 2000 lbs, they have a female led society with a matriarch in charge of the herd. Their populations once numbered in the tens millions before settlers drove them to the brink of extinction. Now, there is a massive undertaking to restore bison to the American Great Plains as they play a vital role in the prairie ecosystem. If you want to see a wild bison, your best chances will be at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, United States or Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada.
For an animal that is all legs, lanky, and awkward, giraffes run with the beauty and grace of a ballerina. There are numerous venues for viewing giraffe in Africa, from Tanzania, to Kenya, South Africa, and Namibia. If you go the Kenya route, head to Hell’s Gate National Park for a tour that is a little less “touristy” to view these animals. Sometimes they are a little off the beaten path, meaning you will also get a fair chance at seeing plenty of zebra, baboons, and warthogs along the way.
2) Polar Bears
Of the eight species of bears, polar bears are the only true carnivores. They are also considered the poster child for climate change, as they depend on the sea ice for all aspects of their life, from hunting to denning and raising young. They are built head to toe for the cold: their massive paws act both as suction cups on the ice as well as paddles in the water; their fur is thick, and hollow which scatters light, much like the snow does. They also have black skin to help absorb heat from the sun. If you want to see polar bears in the wild head to Churchill, Manitoba and partake on one of their Tundra Buggy tours to get up close and personal with these amazing bears. Be careful, though, they will steal your heart!
1) African Elephants
Elephants have incredible memories – there is a lot of truth in the motto “an elephant never forgets.” The matriarch of their society can remember routes to food, water, and the faces of other elephants, even after decades of absence. In Kenya, elephants can be seen in Amboseli National Park moving in large herds through the savanna. You can also view them in the marshes, dining on grasses sunk up to their backs as they wade through the soggy land. Sadly, elephants are often poached only for their tusks, which are then carved into small trinkets. When back in Nairobi head to David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust and pay a small donation to help combat poaching and be rewarded by seeing calves left orphaned receive their bottles inches away from your outstretched hands.
Submitted by: Dana Kennedy
Dana is a stay-at-home mom, former zookeeper, and adjunct professor. She loves to travel, read, cook, spend time with her family, and experience all that life has to offer.