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15 of the Strangest Animals in the World and Where to See Them

By: Joe Sills

These bizarre animals range from cute to terrifying, and you might even see them on your next trip if you know where to look.

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Photo: Jurgen Otto

1: Sparklemuffin

This Australian peacock spider was discovered inside the woodland forests of Wondul National Park, near Brisbane, in 2015. Scientifically named maratus jactatus, sparklemuffin earned its colloquial name from University of California researcher Madeline Girard, who discovered the species. These colorful spiders measure just five millimeters in length and display a signature mating dance, where male spiders raise a leg to signal females.

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Photo: Joe Sills

2: Harpy Eagle

With a look that suggests a cross between a cockatoo and a bird of prey, the harpy eagle is one of the most distinct birds on the planet. Their wings can span over seven feet in width, carrying these 20-plus pound birds over the rainforests of Central and South America, where they hunt down large mammals like sloths and monkeys. Harpy eagles are threatened by habitat loss, but this bird can be seen at the The Belize Zoo, a sanctuary for native species about an hour outside of Belize City.

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3: Coatimundi

A bizarre sight in most of the United States, the coatimundi is a common species in Central and South America that can occasionally be seen in the American Southwest. There, it takes on the roll of the raccoon in the food chain, scavenging for fruits, lizards, rodents and eggs — as well as raiding the occasional trash can. You can find coatimundis from Uruguay to Texas, but be warned — though they might look cute and cuddly, coatimundis reportedly make terrible domestic pets.

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Photo: Belize Tourism Board

4: Jabiru Stork

The glaring, dark stare of a five-foot-tall stork can be a frightening thing for the weary traveler. These mesmerizing birds can exhibit territorial tendencies, as seen in an infamous incident that occurred at the Belize Zoo. That stork’s exhibit now features a roof above the visitor viewing platform after a jabiru stork once tried to stab unsuspecting patrons with its 14-inch-long bill. Jabiru storks are native to Central and South America, where they typically feed on small mammals, fish and amphibians.

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