Discover some of the world's fluffiest and cutest animals in this collection
Pocket-sized gophers, fuzzy finger-monkeys, and cuddly koalas are just a few of the cute and loveable creatures you'll find in this book. From the teeniest to the fluffiest, this collection of the world's cutest animals contains lavish photographs, interesting facts, and "snuggle ratings" for nature's most adorable creatures—so sweet you'll want one of each!
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World's Cutest Animals
By Josie Ripley
Summersdale Publishers LtdCopyright © 2012 Summersdale Publishers
All rights reserved.
LIVES Deserts of North Africa and the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas
EATS Small rodents, reptiles, plants, insects
The fennec fox is the smallest member of the fox family, ranging from 24–40 cm in length, with a big, bushy tail which can be up to 20 cm long. It is obviously blessed in the ear department, but its Dumbo-sized flappers are not just for show: they are filled with blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, which helps the fox release body heat to dissipate the extreme temperatures of the deserts in which it resides. The fox also boasts a copious covering of fuzzy fur on the soles of its feet, which acts like slippers protecting it from the searing heat of the dunes. The fennec is nocturnal, but it does like to sunbathe.
The fennec is quite a sociable animal, choosing to live in a small pack, and in parts of North America and North Africa they are kept as pets, much like cats and dogs – they even purr like cats when happy. The French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had a fennec as a pet and it is believed that his furry friend inspired the fox character in his book The Little Prince.
CUTEST FEATURE: Those ears!
SNUGGLE RATING: ****CHAPTER 2
LIVES Tropical or temperate seas
EATS Tiny fish, plankton, shrimp
Despite being commonly known as the 'stallion of the sea', this other-worldly creature is a surprisingly poor swimmer, and for that reason it is almost always resting, wrapping its prehensile tail around a stationary object such as a plant frond. The seahorse swims upright, using the pectoral fins behind its ears to steer, and has coronets atop its horsey head which gives it an almost regal appearance.
It uses its extra-long snout to slurp up plankton and tiny fish, but because the seahorse doesn't have teeth or a stomach food passes through its insides incredibly quickly, which means it has to eat constantly to stay alive.
This tiny creature has an unusual courtship and mating ritual, and in tropical seas the mating season lasts all year! The female seahorse will deposit her eggs into the male's pouch where they are fertilised and carried until the babies are ready to emerge two to four weeks later – yes, it's the male that becomes pregnant and gives birth! The number of babies born in one birth can be as few as five or as many as 1,500.
CUTEST FEATURE: Their horsey faces and long snouts
SNUGGLE RATING: ** (Well, they are wet fish!)CHAPTER 3
LIVES Woodland, scrubland, meadows and parks throughout Western and Central Europe
EATS Grasses, brambles, leaves, fruits, bark, nuts, fungi
This graceful-looking creature has the most beautiful Bambi-like white speckled coat, which can vary from white to chestnut-brown to red to black, depending on the time of year. It also has a fetching black streak along its spine, like a go-faster stripe, that extends to the tip of its white tail.
With its powerful, lean frame the fallow deer can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and can jump an amazing 5 m high. Fallow deer were introduced to Europe in the eleventh century by the Romans and are a mainstay of parkland, especially the royal parks throughout the UK. It roams in single sex herds for much of the year, choosing to mate once a year in the autumn in what is known as the 'rutting season', which can be a noisy affair in which the males will bark and lock horns to fend off rivals – the barking sounds not unlike belching!
CUTEST FEATURE: Its doe eyes and the spring in its step
SNUGGLE RATING: ***CHAPTER 4
LIVES Indo-Pacific region, but mostly in Shark Bay off northern Australia
EATS Seagrass, small shellfish
This prehistoric-looking, gentle giant of the sea is more commonly known as the 'sea cow' because it spends its days grazing on seagrass in shallow waters. It is not like any other marine animal and is most closely related to the elephant! The dugong can grow to a maximum length of 3 m and weigh up to half a tonne, which explains why it lives life in the slow lane.
Because of its slow pace the dugong has many predators, including humans who hunt it for oil and meat, and numbers have declined sharply over the centuries – where once the sea cow could survive in large herds, it is now more likely to see just one or two dugongs together. As a result, this timid creature is now regarded as a protected species in Australia.
The dugong's other-worldly appearance and graceful actions in the water are believed to have inspired the legend of mermaids.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its sweet face, with its friendly eyes and protruding, snuffling nose
SNUGGLE RATING: **CHAPTER 5
LIVES Mountain regions of Nepal, India, Laos, Bhutan, Myanmar and central China
EATS Bamboo, fruits, acorns, leaves, eggs
This compact, cuddly-looking creature with its bold, ringed tail bears little resemblance to its distant relative the giant panda – the red panda grows to about the size of a domestic cat and looks not unlike a raccoon, also a distant genetic relative. The two bears do, however, share the same rainy, high-altitude habitat, but the red panda, with its strong claws perfectly adapted to climbing, prefers to dwell amongst the treetops rather than the forest floor and spends much of the day curled up in a tree with its tail wrapped around its head.
Its distinctive thick, fur coat protects it from the cold and wet – it even has fur on its paw pads to help it to grip on to the wet bark and leaves – and, although vibrant in colour, the redness of its coat acts as camouflage against the red moss found in its habitat. Interestingly, the red panda is sometimes referred to as the 'firefox' and the collective noun for these beautiful beasts is a 'sleuth'.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its fluffy ringed tail
SNUGGLE RATING: ****CHAPTER 6
LIVES Central and South America
EATS Nectar, small insects
Early Spanish explorers of the New World called the hummingbird a 'flying jewel' and it's easy to see why. You need sharp eyesight to spot this exotic-coloured bird, because it zips from flower to flower at up to 35 mph, reaching speeds of 60 mph when diving through the air for gnats and other tiny, unsuspecting insects.
The hummingbird beats its wings up to an astonishing 80 times a second, and it's tiny – not growing to more than 7–9 cm. It is also the only bird that can fly backwards, up, down, upside down (for short periods) or appear to hover in mid-air. The 'hum' of the hummingbird is created by the sound of its ferociously fast wings, and its long, sword-shaped bill enables it to reach the nectar in a flower's corolla.
Unbelievably, the tiny hummingbird migrates: the ruby-throat, for example, will make the 2,000-mile journey from Canada to Panama, which includes an impressive non-stop 500-mile stretch across the Gulf of Mexico.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its beautiful colours and zippiness
SNUGGLE RATING: **CHAPTER 7
EUROPEAN PINE MARTEN
LIVES Woodlands throughout central and northern Europe
EATS Nuts, berries, birds' eggs, small mammals, including grey squirrels
This diminutive and elusive forest-dweller is a member of the weasel family and it's not hard to see the family resemblance, with its long, sleek body, equally long tail, sweet, proud head with rounded ears, dark eyes and tickly whiskers. The pine marten is about the size of a domestic cat and is often dark brown with a creamy coloured 'bib' on its throat. It is mainly nocturnal, and with its clever retractable claws it can make light work of scaling tall trees as well as scampering at great speeds along the forest floor.
The pine marten tends to set up home in tree hollows, but this little devil has been known to live rent-free in lofts and outbuildings. It's more likely that you would see evidence of a pine marten, such as footprints or droppings, than the creature itself, but they are curious and will inspect the goodies on a bird table as well as sidle up to lighted windows to peer inside.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its curious nature
SNUGGLE RATING: ***CHAPTER 8
CUTE ANIMAL FACTS
Squirrels are known for being great hoarders of seed and nuts, but they can also be a little forgetful as to where they have hidden their treasure. As a happy consequence millions of trees are planted accidentally by these furry tree-dwellers each year! A squirrel is very guarded about its nuts and it will even make elaborate displays of burying non-existent nuts and seeds to throw its rivals off the scent.
One of the most bizarre animal adoption stories ever involves the pairing of a 130-year-old male giant tortoise and a baby hippopotamus. The hippo lost its mother during the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 and was rescued by wildlife rangers on the Kenyan coast. It soon struck up a close bond with an old tortoise, which took on a maternal, nurturing role to the baby hippo, resulting in the pair eating, playing and snoozing together.CHAPTER 9
GOLDEN LION TAMARIN
LIVES Atlantic coastal forests in Brazil
EATS Fruits, berries, insects
This golden-orange monkey with its impressive lion-like mane and charismatic face inhabits canopied rainforests in Brazil. The forests in which it lives provide a rich source of fruits and insects for the tamarin to eat and the canopy provides protection from airborne predators, such as hawks. When the tamarin spots a predator it will make a distinctive call to its troop (between two and nine other monkeys) and head for hollows in tree trunks to hide, or, if there is nowhere to hide, it will drop to the forest floor.
The tamarin is a very social creature; it will share food that it has foraged, participate in mutual grooming sessions and even the male monkeys will do their fair share of rearing the young. A tamarin troop will defend its territory from other troops by marking its patch of forest with scent and calling from the trees – it never leads to physical altercations though, just a bit of monkeying around. In the wild a tamarin will live for an average eight years, but one tamarin living in captivity in a Texan zoo lived to 31 years old!
CUTEST FEATURE: Its lion-like mane
SNUGGLE RATING: ****CHAPTER 10
LIVES Cloud forests of Central and South America
EATS Small insects, fish, other frogs
This highly unusual member of the tree frog family has partially transparent skin, allowing its fragile bones and red veins to be seen clearly. The glass frog's glossy, leaf-green skin, diminutive size (not more than 3 cm) and gold-framed eyes make it look like a tiny, beautiful jade ornament, and as a result it is perfectly camouflaged among the lush leaves of the rainforest. During the breeding season it will lay its eggs on leaves overhanging fast-flowing rivers, allowing the hatched tadpoles to drop into the water.
This fragile creature is happiest foraging at night in light rain which keeps its skin moist, however, it will take cover in heavy showers as it can be killed by the impact of a single raindrop. The male glass frog is territorial and will challenge an invading male to a wrestling match which will only finish when one opponent is pinned to the floor, before hopping back to where he came from.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its gold-ringed eyes
SNUGGLE RATING: **CHAPTER 11
LIVES Rainforests in South East Asia
EATS Tree gum, fruits, insects, small mammals
This furry, big-eyed fellow may look impossibly cute, but don't be fooled because it's not altogether friendly. It happens to be the world's most venomous primate, packing some serious ammo in its elbows, of all places.
Sadly, this nocturnal, slow-moving tree-dweller is a victim of illegal pet trading – its teeth are removed to make it safe – and it is highly prized for its supposed medicinal and supernatural properties. Some people believe that the loris can ward off evil spirits and accelerate the healing of wounds and illness, and around three centuries ago, natives of Borneo believed that it was a gatekeeper to the afterlife.
It is a sitting duck to its enemies, as it chooses to amble around in a sleepy fashion, much like the sloth, rather than run for cover at the first sign of danger. Its pincer-like hands and feet make it perfectly adapted to life among the treetops, where its saucer-sized eyes help it to forage for food in the dark.
CUTEST FEATURE: The constant surprised look on its little face
SNUGGLE RATING: ***CHAPTER 12
LIVES Coastal waters of the Atlantic
EATS All types of fish
The stunning bottlenose dolphin is so-called because its nose is, unsurprisingly, bottle-shaped, and it always looks as if it has a smile on its face due to the way its mouth curves.
This cheeky marine mammal is a veritable aquatic acrobat and can jump up to 6 m above the water, and it is a friendly fellow (or maybe just a little bit nosy!), as it will often swim up to people or alongside boats and allow its silky-smooth skin to be stroked.
Listening to one of these beauties is like attending a rock concert, with all of the shrill squeaks, groans and whistles – it's the dolphin's nasal sacs inside its head which allow it to 'talk' – and each dolphin has a unique whistle, though it would be impossible for a human to discern them. The bottlenose makes clicking noises in the water, up to a thousand clicks per second, to locate objects, using the sound waves which bounce off an object and echo back to it, revealing its relative distance and position. It lives in pods of up to twelve dolphins and is without doubt the cleverest thing with a dorsal fin!
CUTEST FEATURE: Its permanent grin and friendliness to other animals and humans
SNUGGLE RATING: ****CHAPTER 13
AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOG
LIVES Central and eastern Africa; a house near you when kept as a domestic pet!
EATS Mealworms, insects, grubs, quality cat food
This unusual, prickly little creature is a cross between the Algerian hedgehog and the white-bellied four-toed hedgehog and with its magnificent mullet of white spikes it looks like something out of the 1980s. This particular breed has become popular as a domestic pet in recent years.
The domestic pygmy hedgehog's wild counterparts are great walkers, travelling for miles at night in the woods, swamps and grasslands of Africa searching for tasty morsels, as well as climbing and swimming when the need arises. A house-kept hedgehog will prefer to pound the treadmill and feast on mealworms or quality cat treats while everyone sleeps. It is quite a tough little critter, being able to consume poisonous scorpions and even snakes! When threatened by a predator it will let out a shrill scream and simply curl into a prickly, mace-like ball, which isn't very appetising at all!
CUTEST FEATURE: Its spiky hairdo
SNUGGLE RATING: **CHAPTER 14
LIVES Mexico, Central and South America
EATS Beetles, bees, insects, fruits, occasionally meat
The tamandua is a type of anteater, but it is much smaller than its anteater relatives, growing to a maximum of 90 cm. It has a rather unappealing nickname – 'the stinker of the forest' – because of its rather pungent odour; you wouldn't want to be in the line of fire of one of these little critters, because they can emit a whiff that's four times more potent than a skunk's! It also has tremendous claws, which it uses to swipe at anything that's threatening it.
But, despite these less friendly characteristics, the tamandua is rather cute with its long, beaky nose, tiny eyes and curly tail. It has a voracious appetite, slurping up as many as 9,000 ants in a single day with its 40-cm-long sticky tongue. It also enjoys honey and bees direct from the beehive.
This curious animal is most active at night and tends to be solitary; it has poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and hearing, and likes to sleep in the day, with its fluffy tail acting as a pillow.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its long snout and beady eyes
SNUGGLE RATING: ***CHAPTER 15
LIVES UK and Scandinavia
EATS Small insects
The whimsical goldcrest is the most petite bird to be found in Europe, being only 8–9 cm long and with a wingspan of just 14–15 cm. It has golden crest feathers and a rather fetching olive-green plumage with black and white striped wings.
What this tiny bird lacks in size it makes up for in ingenuity, making its nest out of delicate spiders' webs and moss on slender branches in conifer trees and ivy. The female goldcrest lays pale eggs with brown speckles and both parents feed the young once hatched.
The goldcrest has earned the impressive title of 'the king of birds' in European folklore after, according to Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, it won a contest amongst the birds to see who could fly the highest. The eagle was the favourite to win, but as it grew tired of soaring ever upward, a tiny bird that had been hiding under the eagle's wing – our goldcrest – emerged, flying above the eagle to claim the title.
CUTEST FEATURE: Its tiny frame
SNUGGLE RATING: **
Excerpted from World's Cutest Animals by Josie Ripley. Copyright © 2012 Summersdale Publishers. Excerpted by permission of Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
EUROPEAN PINE MARTEN,
GOLDEN LION TAMARIN,
AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOG,
RUSSIAN DWARF HAMSTER,