World Wildlife Fund Good Nature Travel


What is Your ‘Quest Species?’

  • Date: 10 April 2013
  • Author: Elissa Leibowitz Poma, Deputy Director, WWF Travel

WWF Vice President and lead scientist Eric Dinerstein has spent decades traveling the world studying and protecting animals. During that time, he started searching for his “quest species,” animals that “haunt your existence,” he describes in his new book, The Kingdom of Rarities (Island Press Books).

Other WWF staff members have their quest species, too. We recently checked in with some of our colleagues to find out which species they most desire to see in the wild.


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    “I want to visit an emperor penguin colony in Antarctica, to see--and hear and smell--tens of thousands of penguins gathered as far as I can see across the ice and snow. Pictures can’t do justice to the spectacle of abundance, and the stark environment of Antarctica would make it even more incredible to witness.”

    -Jon Hoekstra, Conservation Science

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    “I want to walk among elephants. Ever since I was a young girl, I have been fascinated by these large gentle creatures that seem to know the value of family and friends as much as we do. Standing next to them, observing them and experiencing their world for a day would fulfill a lifelong dream.”

    - Heather Finn, Web Team


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    “I would love to see a snow leopard. It would be an honor to see such a beautiful, reclusive animal in its native habitat; they’re known to live in some of the world’s harshest conditions.”

    -Jerusha Ghazanfari, Foundation Relations


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    “I am dying to see a bird of paradise in New Guinea. Ever since watching them on a nature documentary, I have been fascinated by their crazy plumage and neurotic dance moves. Of course, I’d probably have to sit in a suffocating bird blind all day, with flesh-eating insects, but it would be worth it!

    -Molly Edmonds, Program Communications

    Note: This waterfall that feeds into the April River in the East Sepik, is said to be important spot for Papua New Guinea's famed birds of paradise.

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    “I would love to cage dive with great white sharks. I think seeing a predator on the scale of a great white in the wild would stimulate an adrenalin-high in me that I would probably never experience otherwise.”

    -Jenna Bonello, Media Relations

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    “Despite my extreme dislike of cold, I want to go to the tundra and see muskox. For large, bulky animals, they’re very graceful in their own way, and they’re very powerful for herbivores. They live in one of the harshest climates in the world, and they almost look like a remnant from the Ice Age.”

    -Clara Fisher, Donor Engagement


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    "I want to see a cheetah sprinting across the wide-open Serengeti. To have the opportunity to see the raw power of the unique cat's form in action would be the thrill of a lifetime."

    -Laura Spellings, Planned Giving

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    “Since my first experience with kittens as a 6 year old, I have been fascinated by cats. I would love to one day witness each species of big cat in the wild. I have already seen lions and cheetahs in South Africa, but would love the chance to also see tigers, leopards and cougars and others in their own environment and ideally in a setting free from habitat destruction and poaching.”

    -Afsoon Namini, Corporate Relations

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    “I want to look a mountain gorilla in the eye and feel a connection to one of our closest relatives on Earth. I have heard from others that sitting among gorillas is one of the most emotional wildlife experiences they have ever had.”

    -Sybille Klenzendorf, Species Conservation

  • Jaguar lies on a branch in a tree

    “I’ve always wanted to see a jaguar. I think about what an encounter would be like and imagine it would be something spiritual. For me, the jaguar is king of the jungle, and even if I never actually glimpse one, just knowing it’s there--feeling its presence--is spiritual enough on its own.”

    -Brendan Rohr, Media Relations


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    “I want to get up close and personal with a great white shark. Cage-free!”

    -Ailey Merrick, Africa Program