Weird and Wonderful Animals

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Aye-Aye

This very odd-looking animal is only found in one place, on the island of Madagascar, where it lives in the rain forest. It spends all its time up a tree and doesn't like coming down to ground level. You can recognise the aye-aye by its dark brown fur, it's very big eyes, large bushy tail, thin fingers and pointed claws. It uses its long finger to tap on a tree and listen out for the sound of larvae moving around under the bark, which it likes to dig out and gobble up.

Narwhal

The narwhal is known as the 'unicorn of the sea'. The male has a 'horn' that may be as long as 15 foot. It may look like a unicorn's horn but actually it is a tooth that sticks out through its upper lip. The narwhal is really a type of whale (it is also known as a 'Moon Whale') that lives in the cold Artic waters of Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway. It lives part of the year under the thick ice, occasionally coming up to breathe, and can dive down to 1,500 metres, looking for food like cod, shrimp or squid. Like dolphins, narwhals communicate using whistles, clicks and high-pitched noises.

Echidna

The echidna is a very unusual mammal because instead of giving birth to its young, it lays eggs. A baby echidna is called a puggle and it hatches out after about ten days. The echidna is related to the duck-billed platypus. Covered in spines, it has a long snout and an even longer sticky tongue, instead of teeth, that it uses to feed on ants, worms and termites. It also provides a home for the echidna flea, thought to be the world's largest flea, measuring up to 4mm long.

African Shoebill

This massive bird lives in the swamps and marshes of central and East Africa. It has a huge bill, which looks like a shoe, hence the name, which is used to catch prey like fish from the surface of the water. They may be up to 1.5 metres tall with a wingspan of nearly 4 metres. Like some other storks the shoebill pours water from its bill over its nest, to keep the eggs cool. They prefer to live alone and can be very aggressive towards other shoebills.

Saiga

The saiga is a kind of antelope, found in Russia and Kazakhstan, recognisable by its massive nose! It lives in dusty steppes and grasslands, and the huge nose helps it to breathe clean air in the summer, and warm the air in the winter. The saiga is listed as critically endangered because of hunting, climate change, and death from a mysterious illness. Today there are less than 50,000 of them.

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