Wolf, Wombat, Whale, Tapir: The ‘Rare & Ready to Be Saved’ Final Four Showdown Begins

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Mar 30, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

And then there were four.

The semifinals of “Rare & Ready to Be Saved,” TakePart‘s bracket game featuring the work of Conservation International and Disneynature to protect endangered animals and their disappearing habitats, features an underdog matchup in one Final Four face-off and a titanic showdown in the other.

In Semifinal No. 1, the odd-looking Asian tapir (think pig, only with a trunk) squares off against the northern hairy-nosed wombat, a husky marsupial native to Australia. Both semifinalists pulled off surprising Round 2 upsets to emerge from their respective regions, with the Asian tapir outpacing the California condor and the wombat pulling victory from the jaws of defeat with its takedown of the red panda, a pre-tournament favorite.

The second semifinal, sure to be an old-school, if not mismatched, brawl, features the North Atlantic right whale, a heavyweight leviathan, against the Mexican gray wolf, a scrappy survivor.

Will the undersea giant (right whales can weigh as much as 70 tons) continue its plodding march to bracket supremacy? Or will the Mexican gray wolf (its average weight is 70 pounds), having already vanquished the Sumatran tiger—last year’s “Rare & Ready to Be Saved” winner—sustain its confident trot to the winner’s circle?

Unlike the teams in this month’s NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament, the species in “Rare & Ready to Be Saved” are all winners. For every 10 votes received, TakePart will donate $1 to Conservation International, up to $5,000. The nonprofit will, in turn, use this money to help protect endangered species in their native habitats.

Make no mistake: Each semifinalist can use all the help it can get, for each species faces its own unique set of challenges in the wild.

The Asian tapir’s primary threats are illegal hunting and habitat loss in the forests and marshes of Malaysia and Sumatra. Only about 200 northern hairy-nosed wombats survive, and the world’s largest burrowing herbivore faces threats from drought, flooding, fire, and predators.

Commonly referred to as “El Lobo,” the Mexican Gray wolf, one of the most endangered animals in North America, was nearly hunted to extinction in the 1970s. Only the passage and enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 saved the subspecies—and wolves as a whole—from near-certain eradication. From just a handful of surviving Mexican gray wolves some 40 years ago, a captive breeding program began; today, 100 individuals remain in the wild. The Mexican gray wolf’s semifinal opponent, the behemoth North Atlantic right whale—the “right” whale for 18th- and 19th-century whalers because its blubber is rich in oil—faced two centuries of commercial whaling, which decimated the population. Today, just 500 individuals remain in the wild.

Even though the Final Four of our bracket game is under way, it’s not too late to play. It’s a fun way to support a great cause, so register to vote.

After voting, please take one more ever important step—share your ballot on social media. The more voters publicize their brackets, the more voters we’re likely to get, and the more help Conservation International and Disneynature can give to our planet’s threatened species.

Start voting now!

“Rare & Ready to Be Saved” is a sponsored series produced in collaboration with Disneynature, its upcoming film Monkey Kingdom (in theatres April 17), and Conservation International. For every person who sees Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom during opening week (April 17–23, 2015), Disneynature will contribute $.20 per ticket to Conservation International through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $100,000. Information concerning Conservation International can be obtained, without cost, by writing to Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202. The ticket purchase is not tax deductible.