Wildlife Encounters From the Safety of Your Couch

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Watching Tiger King may be all the rage, and goats and ducks might be free to roam the city streets, but the best place to see some of the most adorable and fascinating animals around the world is in their natural habitats. From scale-covered pangolins to 170-year-old tortoises to miniature two-pound foxes, take a peek at the world's most unique creatures on every continent from the safety of your couch.

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1. Condors, California

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California condors love the dry, rocky terrain of the American southwest. You can find them scavenging for food over shrubland, nesting in a cliffside cave or in the hole of a giant sequoia tree or soaring gracefully overhead. With their wingspan of up to 10 feet, these are the largest flying birds in North America.

2. Sloths, Costa Rica

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If you look carefully in the mountainous rainforests of Costa Rica, you may be able to spot algae-covered, furry sloths hanging in the trees or swimming across canals—they are surprisingly good swimmers. Costa Rica is home to the Sloth Sanctuary, the leading center for sloth rehabilitation and research. And of course, the notoriously slow-moving sloths love a good nap.

3. Giant Tortoises, Ecuador

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Giant tortoises are perhaps the most famous inhabitants of the Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador, and they do not live anywhere else in the world. They thrive in the islands' low, dry climate; the 15 species of these slow-moving reptiles (some of which are now extinct) can weigh over 900 pounds and live 170 years or more.

4. Capybaras, Peru

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These semiaquatic rodents love forests, rivers, ponds and swamps, making Peru a perfect habitat for them, as more than 60 percent of the country is covered by the Amazon rainforest. They are the largest rodents in the world and can weigh up to 150 pounds. Typically they can be found either sunbathing or munching; adult capybaras eat 6 to 8 pounds of grass daily!

5. Faroe Sheep, Faroe Islands

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The cold, windy climate on these islands is too harsh for many plants and animals, but not the Faroese sheep, which outnumber people about seven to five. The name of the islands even comes from an old Norse word for "sheep." The wild sheep—which are, in fact, quite tame—are hardy, good climbers, and well-adapted to the cold, allowing packs of them to thrive on the islands.

6. Mediterranean Monk Seals, Greece

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Now found almost exclusively around the coast of Greece, these monk seals are considered some of the most critically endangered mammals on earth. But if you get to see one of these shy creatures, it will be worth it. Their big, round eyes help them see underwater as they swim through the warm Mediterranean.

7. Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda

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Rwanda is one of only three countries where mountain gorillas live in the wild, and there are only about 1,000 alive today. They live in communities of up to about 30 gorillas led by an alpha male. Like humans, mother's give birth to one baby at a time; baby gorillas ride on their mother's backs until they are about 2 or 3 years old.

8. Pangolins, South Africa

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The most highly-trafficked mammal in the world, pangolins especially appreciate the shrubby savanna woodland of South Africa. They are the only mammals that are covered in keratin scales, which they use for defense by rolling up in a tight ball when threatened. Using their long, narrow snouts, they slurp up ants from the ground.

9. Emus, Australia

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Australia's national bird, these giant flightless birds are second in size only to the ostrich. Despite growing up to 6 feet tall, they're speedy; they can run up to 30 miles per hour through savanna and grasslands, while their fluffy feathers protect them from the sun.

10. Fennec Foxes, Algeria

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This mammal is the national animal of Algeria and the mascot of its football team. It is the smallest kind of fox, but you can't miss its giant Dumbo ears. They actually help the nocturnal foxes survive the harsh Sahara desert—they radiate the foxes' body heat to keep them cool. The foxes also have furry feet, which protects their paws from hot sand.

11. Elephants, Botswana

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In Botswana—home to the largest population of elephants in the world—giant savanna elephants can be found in national parks and reserves and have even been known to lumber through farmland and rural towns, destroying crops and sometimes killing people. As a result, in a controversial move, Botswana lifted a ban on trophy hunting these giant creatures last year.

12. Red Pandas, China

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Unrelated to the famous giant panda, red pandas live in temperate forests in the foothills of the Himalayas where they spend most of their lives in the treetops. Equally cute, these clever, tree-climbing vegetarians have been known to escape easily from zoos and have long, furry strong tails and jutting wrist bones that help them grip branches while climbing.

Wildlife Encounters From the Safety of Your Couch
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