James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

10 Species I’d Smuggle On Board Attenborough’s Ark

I feel an odd relationship with the BBC’s flagship nature documentaries. They inspire and educate on the one hand, but at their conclusion leave you with a sense of urgency and unease. In essence, I don’t find them relaxing, which might be what you’re looking for from a Friday evening broadcast.

Nevertheless, it was fantastically refreshing to see the focus lifted from the well known and (deservedly) iconic species over to natures obscure wonders. As a result, a sudden awareness of Pangolins, Birdwing butterflies and Mouth-brooding frogs has swept the nation.

The mention of Solenodons and Darwin’s Frogs was especially heartening, because I was lucky enough to interview the scientists involved as part of a series of Fieldwork Articles last year. Do take a look at the bottom of the page.

Either way here’s the ten species, that given a chance, I would hope to save from extinction.

Ten Species to Save:

  1. Diademed Sifaka: Arguably one of the most beautiful of all the lemurs, the closest I came was the picture in a field guide.
  1. Wilson’s bird-of-paradise: How could you not include a species from this family, with such a deserving name. It’s said that early naturalists believed these birds were in perpetual flight, as they had no legs. Infact, they were chopped off by field biologists for ease of packing and sending back to the museum.
  1. Saola: I’ve been astonished by this ever since I first read the story. For someone who is rather in awe of the historic age of discovery, it’s amazing to think of the discoveries that must still be out there.
  1. Narwhal: Representing aquatic mammals, you can see why this creatures tusk was once highly valued for trade and led to a belief in unicorns.
  1. Golden-rumped elephant-shrew: Included for having one of the most wonderful names, their taxonomy is difficult to assess, but they’re not closely related to shrews!
  1. Arabian Leopard: Only a subspecies, but after becoming involved with the project over the last two years (and seeing the thin sliver of hope that so many work tirelessly towards) I would have to include this, the smallest of the leopards, in my ten.
  1. Giraffe Weevil: A simple picture of this species, is the best explanation of why it’s included.
  1. Ghost Orchid: Perhaps I’m a nerd for including a plant, but it’s a pretty spectacular one at that. This is the only one of the list that you could find in the UK (if you were very lucky).
  1. Bruce’s Green-Pigeon: With most of this list being either rare or very rare, here’s a common species. Included, because when I first saw it’s gaudy colors in a species guide (coupled with a rather casual name) I thought it must have been a joke. The next day I saw one, and it’s every bit as colorful in real life too. (another picture)
  1. Coast Redwood: Certainly a nerd for including two plants, I have a bit of a passion for trees. So including the worlds tallest species is a must, if a little predictable. It’s certainly not the rarest though, there’s several in fact where only a single surviving plant is known (like this hurricane palm or the Neriifolia tree), and I’d have to smuggle them on board too.

So what species would you include? Add your list to the comments.


Fieldwork Interviews: