Treehugging animals

Photos courtesy of World Wildlife Fund

Did you know that 80 percent of the known terrestrial plant and animal species are found in forests? A single square kilometer of wooded land can contain as many as 1,000 different species! Sadly, that kind of abundant biodiversity is becoming increasingly rare as rampant deforestation continues at an alarming rate around the world.

To raise awareness about the importance of the world's forest ecosystems, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is launching an Earth Day social media campign that encourages people to snap photos of themselves hugging trees and share it with the tag "#HugATree." Visit WWF's website to learn more and to see all the people who have expressed their love of trees so far.

But before you dash out the door to embrace the closest tree, ftake a moment to learn about some of nature's greatest treehuggers with these gorgeous photos of koalas, pandas, sloths, orangutans and others!

Treehugging animals: Orangutan

Photo: © Laman/WWF


Because wild orangutans live in only two places in the world — the forested islands of Borneo and Sumatra — their existence is endangered by development-fueled deforestation that is currently closing in on them from all sides.

Treehugging animals: Sloth

Photo: © Carlos Munoz/WWF


These slow-moving (yet extremely charismatic) creatures spend the vast majority of their lives hanging around in trees, so they are entirely dependent on the continued existence of leafy expanses of forest.

Treehugging animals: Panda

Photo: © / Juan Carlos Munoz / WWF

Giant pandas

Found in the mountainous bamboo forests of western China, giant pandas have long been a symbol of conservation efforts (most prominently in the WWF logo!) due to habitat loss and low birthrates.

Treehugging animals: Koala

Photo: © Martin Harvey/WWF


These beloved marsupials aren't considered endangered, but their conservation within urbanized areas has become a major issue in recent years. As trees are cut down for development, these beloved furballs are often left with few places for refuge. This means koalas are often in danger of being hit by cars or attacked by domestic dogs.

Treehugging animals: Snake

Photo: © Vin J. Toledo/WWF

Green tree snakes

If you happen to be hiking around the humid forests of southern Asia, keep an eye out for these green beauties. It isn't uncommon to find them curled up around a hanging branch!

Treehugging animals: Black-crowned squirrel monkey

Photo: © WWF-US/Jennafer Bonello

Squirrel monkeys

With their powerful tails and long, slender arms and legs, squirrel monkeys are perfectly adapted for a life of bounding across the vast, thick canopies of Central America's forests.

Treehugging animals: Leopard

Photo: © Martin Harvey/WWF


Although plenty of cats are technically capable of climbing trees, getting back down to the ground can be an entirely different challenge. But not for leopards! This big cats species relies on its powerful upper body strength to climb, hunt and even drag prey into the trees for dinner.

Treehugging animals: Pangolin

Photo: © John E. Newby/WWF


Native to both Africa and southern Asia, these fascinating nocturnal critters spend quite a bit of time in trees hunting and eating bugs. The pangolin's scaled armor and ability to curl up like a pill bug are its main mode of defense against predators, but sadly, all eight species of pangolin are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered due to poaching and deforestation.

Treehugging animals: Tiger

Photo: © Vivek R. Sinha/WWF


These striped felines are the largest species of cat in the world, and they can be found in a variety of habitats — from grasslands, tropical jungles or even swampy mangrove forests.

Treehugging animals: Gorilla

Photo: © Shah/WWF

Western lowland gorillas

Although these critically endangered gentle giants hail from the rain forests of Africa's Congo Basin, you probably won't find them swinging through the trees like other primates. Instead, these fascinating animals roam the forest floors in small family groups.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.