02/29/2016 12:47 EST | Updated 03/01/2017 05:12 EST

5 Odd Animals You Never Knew Existed (And How To Meet Them)

David Lochlin/Flickr
I can't believe the cruelty that my fellow human beings inflict on animals like these just to obtain traditional medicines. Putting tubes into their stomachs to milk them for bile.

While these animals may not star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio anytime soon, nor likely to be chosen as supporting cast for the next Disney blockbuster, they're still in need of attention. These are threatened species -- some due to hunting, others to habitat loss from industrialization. Today, travelers are digging in to preserve their future, and giving them a much needed turn in the spotlight.

The Amazon's Pink River Dolphin:


Credit: Earthwatch

The vast, relatively untouched Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru harbour an incredible diversity of wildlife. Pink river dolphins and caimans still swim these waters, while extraordinary birds species colour the canopy above. In this remote and isolated region of the Amazon, Earthwatch scientists are working with travelers to conduct a comprehensive survey of the area's biodiversity to develop sustainable conservation strategies for the region and the people who inhabit it. Illegal timber companies, pet traders, and hunters have decimated wildlife in other areas of the Amazon, lending urgency to the conservation of these nearly pristine reserves.

The Echidna's of Australia:


Credit: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

This is an opportunity of a lifetime, assisting with native Australian wildlife in a remarkable sanctuary setting. The main focus of the Currumbin Sanctuary is to protect the welfare of native wildlife. Sick, injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife receive medical treatment and a new lease on life. Residents include echidnas, wombats, koalas, bobtails, quendas, and red kangaroos.

The Sun Bears of Cambodia:


Credit: Free the Bears

Conservation travelers are helping care for over 150 bears (Malayan sun bears and Asiatic black bears) and using their free time to explore Cambodia. By investing at the Centre, travelers are making a major contribution to the welfare of bears in Asia. Their time and efforts help to care for the bears, and the majority of the program costs provide essential sources of funding for their future sustainability. On a personal level, conservation travelers with Free the Bears have a unique opportunity to work alongside some incredible animals and gain the satisfaction of helping to make a difference to the lives of these animals.

The Gelada Baboon of Ethiopia:


Credit: Natural Habitat Adventures

Atop the Ethiopian Highlands, you perch on the very roof of Africa. This vast high-altitude plateau is one of the world's most dramatic landscapes. It's also home to rare endemic wildlife such as walia ibex, mountain nyala, Ethiopian wolf and the gelada baboon. These are at-risk and threatened species due to hunting and habitat loss, and the award-winning Natural Habitat Adventures offers expeditions that invest in the sustainability of the region.

The White-lipped Peccaries of Brazil:


Credit: Kaya Responsible Travel

Work on a conservation project in the Pantanal with Kaya Responsible Travel and help protect the white-lipped peccary from extinction. White-lipped peccaries (WLPs) are wide-ranging, fruit-eating ungulates that form large herds in Neotropical forests. The herds strongly affect forest biodiversity via fruit predation and dispersal, and WLPs are important prey for jaguar and humans. Throughout its range, local extinctions have occurred due to habitat fragmentation and hunting. The multi-disciplinary nature of the project makes it ideal for enthusiastic volunteers to engage with conservation issues surrounding Brazil's critically endangered Cerrado ecosystem.