What is the rarest animal that you’ve seen in the wild?
Back in around 1993, I was hiking around Santa Cruz Island off of the southern California coast and saw a Channel Island Kit Fox. They’re pretty gregarious animals and cute as all get out. They are tiny, this one was the size of a big kitten. It came running up to me within 30 feet or so, just like a puppy. I think the Santa Cruz Island Kit Fox subspecies currently has a population of around 125. They keep on getting gobbled up by Golden Eagles who replaced the native Bald Eagle population that died off due to DDT. There is hope though, 2 bald eagles just hatched on Catalina island, the first ones since the 1940’s!
I was lucky enough to be able to on a hike to see the largest family group of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanic National Park. In 1999, 8 tourists were slaughtered by rebel guerillas (not gorillas) so when I was there in 2002 each tourist was accompanied by two armed guards toting AK-47’s. I saw 28 of the 32 members of the family group. At the time there were estimated to be about 650 mountain gorillas, so I’ve seen about 4% of all of them existing in the wild.
It’s pretty easy to see West Indian Manatees at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge next to Cape Canaveral in Florida. I saw a bunch of them at the Haulover Bridge there. The 2001 manatee population count was 3276, but they are notoriously difficult to count.
I’ve seen a black rhino in Matopos National Park in Zimbabwe. I think there’s about 3600 left in the wild.
I’ve seen a few yellow eyed penguins on the South Island of New Zealand. I think there’s about 2000 breeding pairs.
I’m hoping to see a California Condor pretty soon. A friend is doing some construction in Ventura on a remote farm and he says he sees them everytime he’s out there. There was 127 in the wild as of December 1, 2005.