The Tournament Of Cute Animals Threatened By Climate Change



We’re on to round 2, with voting happening now! Vote here.

Welcome to March Sadness, ClimateProgress’ first educational tournament of cute animals. For the next two weeks, animals will battle head to head in the ultimate competition of cuteness, here on the pages of this blog. Our readers (that’s you!) will decide which animal should clinch the championship title.

But here’s the catch: Each of the animals on this bracket is seriously threatened by climate change and environmental degradation. So, for whichever animal wins, ClimateProgress will devote resources for a deep-dive feature article exploring the story behind the environmental threats to your chosen critter.


Here’s how it will work. Throughout this series, we’ll pit panda against pangolin, sea lion against sea horse, and goat against reindeer. Your votes will determine the winner of each one-on-one match-up.


At the same time, we’ll also tell you what we know about how drought, sea level rise, pollution, and rising temperatures are impacting your favorite critters. As winners move further along in the bracket, we’ll provide you with more information about the animals you’ve chosen.

For the bracket at hand, the animals are divided into four categories: Horns and Hooves, Paws and Claws, Fins and Flippers, and the admittedly less catchy Shells and Wings. For our first four rounds, we’ll focus on each category. So our first two days will be Paws and Claws, the third day Horns and Hooves, et cetera, et cetera.

The basis for how you vote is up to you — you can choose the animal you like the most, the one you think is the cutest, or if you’re really into the end-game of the competition, the one you’d most like to read a deep-dive feature story about.

Voting will take place via Facebook and Twitter, with Twitter polls embedded in every post. You can also vote on Twitter using the hashtag #CPMarchSadness, or by using the comments on our Facebook page. Voting will begin on each post as soon as it’s published, and will end at midnight EDT that same day.

Updates on each match will be provided at the bottom of this post, so check back here to see how things are going.


The creatures within this bracket were lovingly chosen by ClimateProgress’ staff, based both on their cuteness and the severity of the environmental threat they face. They were ranked semi-arbitrarily, but with our perceived likelihood of how popular each animal would be in mind.


ClimateProgress recognizes that there are many, many more than 32 types of animals facing real and terrible threats from climate change and other environmental problems — not to mention the billions of people who will be affected. Due to human activity, the Earth has lost half its vertebrate species since 1970. Believe us, if we had unlimited time and resources, we’d do them all! But, if only for time’s sake, we’ve chosen 32 we believe are worthy of your attention and votes. Feel free to point out glaring omissions in the comments for future reporting, but we will not change the bracket.

*** Today we’ll have our first two battles: Polar Bear vs. Wombat, and Pangolin vs. Tasmanian Devil. Each weekday after that, we’ll have a new battle and a new post. Voting for these battles closes on 3/20 at midnight EDT.

Happy voting! And may the best animal win.

Polar Bear vs. Wombat

A polar bear and a baby wombat. CREDIT: Shutterstock
A polar bear and a baby wombat. CREDIT: Shutterstock

In this first battle, our number one seed Polar Bear faces off against a wombat — specifically, a hairy-nosed wombat. If you don’t know what that is, think of a koala, then cross it with a puppy, then dig a hole and let it live underground.

The environmental threats to the polar bear are well-known and growing. Oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is exposing bears to human activity, and putting them at risk of habitat destruction and poisoning via oil spill. What’s more, climate change is affecting ice coverage of the Arctic Sea, meaning bears have less time on the ice to hunt seals. Indeed, the number one cause of death for cubs right now is a lack of food, or lack of fat on nursing mothers.


Wombats are facing threats to their habitats because of human-caused warming. In recent years, drought in Australia has diminished the grasses that feed the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, and the animals face starvation. Even in years when the rain has come back, the grasses still haven’t fully returned.

So — Polar bear or Wombat? Vote via the tweet below by favoriting for the Wombat, retweeting for the Polar Bear. You can also vote with the hashtag #CPMarchSadness, comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Pangolin vs. Tasmanian Devil

A pangolin and a Tasmanian devil. CREDIT: shutterstock
A pangolin and a Tasmanian devil. CREDIT: shutterstock

Next, the ever-elusive Pangolin goes head to head with Looney Tunes favorite Tasmanian Devil.

Pangolins are believed to the most trafficked animal in the world. All eight species are listed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Ranging across Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, this heavily-scaled mammal is also threatened by deforestation and habitat loss. Climate change can impact pangolin habitat by altering rainfall patterns and shifting ecological regions, thus further stressing these vulnerable creatures. Pangolin scales are believed to have powerful medical benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As with other animals killed for their supposed TCM value, there exists no medical evidence supporting these beliefs.

Found only on the Australian island state of Tasmania, Tasmanian Devils have been in decline for years — specifically, the last 50,000 years. Since the last ice age, 80 percent of the animal’s population has been wiped out. But now, scientists believe drought and rising temperatures are drying out the animal’s food sources, contributing to starvation. Tasmanian Devils also suffer from a rampant face tumor disease, which spreads when the animals clash heads fighting over food.

Vote below! Favorite to vote for the Pangolin, retweet to vote for the Tasmanian Devil. You can also vote with the hashtag #CPMarchSadness, comment below, or on our Facebook page.

***TOURNAMENT UPDATES:Day 1–3/19: Paws and Claws pt. 1 — Polar Bear vs. Wombat; Tasmanian Devil vs. Pangolin; (voting closed) WINNERS: Polar Bear and Pangolin.Day 2–3/20: Paws and Claws pt. 2 — Lemur vs. Koala; Panda vs. Wolverine (voting closed) WINNERS: Koala and Wolverine.Day 3–3/23: Fins and Flippers — Sea Lion vs. Sea Horse; Penguin vs. Manatee; Walrus vs. Sea Otter; Whale vs. Salmon (voting closed) WINNERS: Sea Horse, Sea Otter, Whale, and Penguin.Day 4–3/24: Horns and Hooves — Elephant vs. Horned Lizard; Rhino vs. Narwhal; Saola vs. Moose; Mountain Goat vs. Reindeer (voting closed) WINNERS: Elephant, Narwhal, Moose, and Mountain Goat.Day 5–3/25: Shells and Wings — Sea Turtle vs. Pelican; Sage Grouse vs. Peregrine Falcon; Oyster vs. Butterfly; Lobster vs. Red Knot (voting closed) WINNERS: Sea Turtle, Falcon, Butterfly, Red Knot.Day 6–3/26: Polar Bear vs. Pangolin; Koala vs. Wolverine (voting closed) WINNERS: Polar Bear, Wolverine.Day 7–3/27: Sea Horse vs. Whale; Sea Otter vs. Penguin (voting closed) WINNERS: Sea Horse, Sea Otter.Day 8–3/30: Elephant vs. Mountain Goat; Moose vs. Narwhal (voting closed) WINNERS: Elephant, Narwhal.Day 9–3/31: Sea Turtle vs. Red Knot; Butterfly vs. Peregrine Falcon (voting closed) WINNERS: Sea Turtle, Peregrine Falcon.Day 10–4/1: Polar Bear vs. Wolverine; Sea Horse vs. Sea Otter (voting NOW OPEN)Day 11–4/2: Elephant vs. Narwhal; Sea Turtle vs. Peregrine FalconDay 12–4/3: THE FINAL FOUR: TBD Day 13–4/6: THE CHAMPIONSHIP: TBD

PAST ROUNDS:Round 9: Sweet Sixteen, part 4Round 8: Sweet Sixteen, part 3Round 7: Sweet Sixteen, part 2Round 6: Sweet Sixteen, part 1Round 5: Shells and WingsRound 4: Horns and HoovesRound 3: Fins and FlippersRound 2: Paws and Claws, part 2Round 1: Paws and Claws, part 1

(Special thanks to, whose 2010 Cake vs. Pie tournament provided us with the answers to all our questions about how to operate a bracket tournament on a blog.)

No animals were directly harmed in the making of this bracket.