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The Cutest Shy Animals You’ve Never Seen

Get ready to be delighted by some of the cutest shy animals on Earth. Many adorable creatures inhabit our planet, but some remain elusive, tucked away in remote corners of the Earth or hidden by the cover of night. From charming marsupials with smiling faces to endearing tree-dwelling mammals, read on to discover some of the most lovable, rarely seen members of the animal kingdom.

Aardwolf

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Image by Paul Souders

The aardwolf has the most adorable giant ears, but it’s guaranteed to hide from view. An insectivorous mammal native to eastern and southern Africa, this super-cute “dog” belongs to the Hyaenidae family and is a species of hyena. In Afrikaans, aardwolf means “earth wolf”—and this half-dog loves to munch on termites. In fact, the aardwolf’s large, sticky tongue can swallow up to 250,000 termites in a single night. 

Bat-Eared Fox

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Image by Gallo Images – Dave Hamman

Sometimes called the Motlosi, the bat-eared fox is a treat to spot as one of Africa’s more shy, harder-to-find animals. The only surviving species of the genus Otocyon, the bat-eared fox’s large ears tower in comparison to its small face. This nocturnal, oh-so-cute fox loves foraging for ants, termites, spiders, scorpions, and crickets.

Pink Fairy Armadillo

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Image by Petr Kolb/500 px

This armadillo has the perfect name. Found in grasslands and the sand plains of Argentina, these adorable animals are tiny—less than 11 cm (4.5 inches) long. With a delightfully pink shell and silky fur, these shy armadillos will make you want to take them home. Sadly, their natural habitat is in danger because of agriculture and cattle ranching, but organizations like Xenarthrans are working to ensure the species’ survival.

Ili Pika

First discovered in 1983 in China’s Tian Shan Mountains, the incredibly rare ili pika, with its furry teddy bear face, was not seen again until 2014. It’s thought that there are fewer than 1,000 of “magic rabbits” on Earth. This little creature likes to munch on grass, herbs, and mountain plants and spends its time stockpiling food amongst rocks in distinctive hay piles. Even harder to find than pandas, the ili pika is a seldom-seen creature in its natural habitat, but scientists are gaining valuable insights into the lifestyle of this charmingly elusive animal through camera traps strategically placed around the Tian Shan Mountains.

Sunda Colugo

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Image by Vincent_St_Thomas

These gentle creatures are nicknamed flying lemurs, even though they’re not actually lemurs. Found in the tree-filled jungles of Southeast Asia, the colugo can use its flaps of skin to glide from tree to tree, avoiding predators through “flight.” Their gray and brown fur acts as camouflage as they fly, and babies hold onto their mothers’ bellies as they glide from place to place.

Raccoon Dog

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Image by OndejChvtal/500 px

Raccoon dogs are not related to raccoons, despite having faces that look nearly identical. These east Asian canids, also known as Tanuki, are actually closely related to foxes. Tanuki hold a significant place in Japanese folklore dating back to ancient times, where they are depicted as playful and cheerful creatures renowned for their shape-shifting abilities. They’re often represented as small statues adorning Japanese homes.

Margay

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Image by Juan Carlos Vindas

Within the lush landscapes of Central and South American deciduous, tropical, subtropical, and cloud forests resides the charming margay, a small, beautifully spotted wild cat known for its solitary tree-climbing lifestyle.

While it may look similar to an ocelot, the margay has distinctive features, such as a tail that’s longer than its hind leg. Margays are relatively scarce, having faced the threats of illegal wildlife trade in the 1990s, leading to their current classification as a “near threatened” species.

Baluchistan Pygmy Jerboa

Looking like a cross between a tiny chicken and a mouse, the three-toed Baluchistan pygmy jerboa is nearly the smallest rodent in the world, coming in at a close second. These cute little guys are native to Pakistan, they weigh less than 4 grams (less than 0.25 ounces), and they are often only 4 cm (1.6 inches) tall. They live in the dry plains and dunes of the Baluchistan Desert. 

Quokka

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Image by Tim Snell/500 px

Often called the “world’s happiest animal,” the quokka is a small marsupial native to western Australia. We can’t say for sure if it’s smiling, but it’s face always seems to have a friendly expression. Despite their smiley faces, quokkas are shy and mostly come out at night. If you’re fortunate enough to see one, though, it’s surely a delight. 

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