Project Overview

All around the world, across habitats, across taxa and for all kinds of reasons, once-discovered species have fallen off our radar. These lost species are animals or plants that have gone unseen for years or decades and are feared possibly extinct. In collaboration with more than 100 scientists, Global Wildlife Conservation has compiled a list of 1,200 species of animals and plants that are missing to science. We have teased from this list the top 25 “most wanted” species in the world. Quirky, charismatic and elusive, these species are global flagships for conservation.

From the dark depths of the ocean to the bottom of running freshwater rivers, from the lush jungles of the tropics, to the seemingly barren wastelands of the desert, the Search for Lost Species will explore some of the most remote and uncharted wild places on Earth to find and protect the “most wanted” species.

The Search for Lost Species would not be possible without the collaboration of more than 100 scientists to date, local conservation organizations worldwide and support from various institutional partners, including the Turtle Conservancy, IUCN Species Survival Commission and the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group.

(Top photo: Art decoy of the Pink-headed Duck, a species not seen since 1949 in India. Photo by Philip Nelson)

(Artwork by Alexis Rockman)

Project Goals

Biologist Eli Wyman with one of the only known specimens of Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), which is the world’s largest known bee. This species has only been seen by scientists in the wild on two occasions, the most recent in the early 1980s. (Photo by Clay Bolt)

The Search for Lost Species will work with local partners to send scientific expeditions around the world to some of the most remote and uncharted wild places on Earth in search of 25 “most wanted” species. The initiative aims to:

  • Raise $500,000 in the first phase from corporate sponsorships, individual donations and partners to support the expeditions.
  • Work with local and international partners on developing the best conservation strategies for rediscovered “most wanted” species, their habitats, and the species they share their home with. This could involve working with communities to protect a species, when appropriate establishing a new protected area, understanding how a species has survived and applying that knowledge to help other species, working with local governments to enact laws that protect species, etc. The conservation strategy will depend on the natural history of the species, its habitat and the threats causing it harm.
  • Raise the profile of lost species in the public eye. If there’s any one theme for this initiative, it’s hope. Hope that maybe, by some chance, these species are still out there. Hope that once we rediscover them, we’ll be able to conserve them, along with the species that share their habitats. Most conservationists will say that hope is what drives them, against all odds. That’s what this initiative is all about.
  • Maintain a database of species lost and found. The top 25 flagship species represent only a fraction of the more than 1,200 species that scientists and conservationists from around the world nominated.

Get involved by making a donation to support the expeditions; by following (and sharing!) the Search for Lost Species on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; or by signing up at to receive updates. If you’re part of a corporation, we’d love to talk to you about our corporate sponsorship opportunities for the Search for Lost Species. The global search begins at

Fast Facts

"Most wanted" species




Countries last seen


Collectively missing

1,500+ years

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