25 July 2016

Did you know that many Pokémon Go characters are inspired by real animals?

Over the last few years, you may have found yourself among the millions of people chasing Pokémon around town. When it comes to Pokémon, the weirder the better, so it’s no surprise that so many endangered species have provided inspiration for these beloved characters.

EDGE species (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) are the most unique species on the planet. With few or no close relatives on the tree of life, EDGE species are usually extremely distinct in the way they look, live and behave – as well as in their genetic make-up. 

Their weird and wonderful physical and behavioural traits make these rare animals a perfect match for the Pokémon world.

Check out our list to see which of your favourite characters resemble EDGE species.

1. Articuno and the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus)

The plush plumage of the kagu - a highly unusual and almost flightless bird - gives the game away. It's known locally as the 'ghost of the forest' due to its ash-white feathers. 

Pokemon articuno
Articuno resembles EDGE species the kagu

2. Bulbasaur and Bullock’s false toads (Telmatobufo bullocki)

Bulbasaur and EDGE species the Bullock's false toad - a rare and elusive animal endemic to Chile - have got each other's back. 

Bullocki frog
© Claudios Otoazat
Bulbasaur takes inspiration from a toad endemic to Chile

3. Chansey and the olm (Proteus anguinus)

Chansey and the olm are both pink cave-dwelling amphibians. Olms have unique adaptations for an underground life - they can survive without food for up to a decade!

Chansey the pokemon
© Dusan Jelic
Chansey and the olm are both pink cave-dwelling amphibians

4. Charmander and the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)

Eye-catching amphibians Charmander and the Chinese giant salamander - the world's largest amphibian - have definite similarities. Learn more about the threats faced by Chinese giant salamanders and our conservation work to protect them.

Eye-catching Charmander and a Chinese giant salamander

5. Dewgong and the dugong (Dugong dugon)

ZSL's research has found that the dugong - also known as the 'sea cow' - is functionally extinct in China, with no sightings recorded since 2008. Not only do Dewgong and dugongs have similar names, they also have a similar physical appearance. 

Dewgong pokemon
Dugong in sea
© Patrick Louisy
The so-called 'sea cow' is cute on screen

6. Drowzee and the Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus)

It looks like inspiration for sleepy Drowzee was taken from the Asian tapir, also known as the Malayan tapir, which is listed as Endangered in the wild. 

Drowzee on pokemon go
tapirus indicus
Sleepy Drowzee could have been inspired by the Asian tapir

7. Farfetch’d and the Sichuan jay (Perisoreus internigrans)

Sichuan jays, found in China, are near threatened in the wild. Learn more about our work with EDGE birds

farfetch'd pokemon
Sichuan Jay
© James Eaton
This fearsome feathered friend is inspired by oriental roots

8. Mankey and the barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus)

Pokémon Mankey is a furry primate likely inspired by the endangered barbary macaque. 

mankey pokemon
Barbary Macacque
This furry primate is a Pokémon that resembles a macaque

9. Pikachu and Ili Pika (Ochotona iliensis)

This rodent, which is endemic to China and endangered in the wild, is the cute-spiration behind Pikachu. 

Pikachu 3D
Ili Pika
This Chinese rodent is the cute-spiration behind Pikachu

10. Poliwrath and the purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)

Poliwrath takes his style from this attractive amphibian, the purple frog. Also known as the pig-nosed frog, the species is found in India and spends much of its life underground. 

A close up image of a purple frog
This fella takes his style from this attractive amphibian

11. Primeape and the red slender loris (Loris tardigradus)

Primeape could be based on the red slender loris - a peculiar but precious primate with thin arms and legs. Endemic to Sri Lanka, the red slender loris is under threat from habitat loss and hunting for the pet trade.

Primeape pokemon
Slender red loris
© James T Reardon
Primeape is based on a peculiar but precious primate

12. Psyduck and the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

Both Psyduck and the platypus, have a distinctive 'snout' that looks like a duck's bill. The platypus - which is Near Threatened in the wild - is a semiaquatic, egg-laying mammal endemic to Australia.

Psyduck toy on a rock
Platypus in water
The platypus is one of the only mammals that lays eggs!

13. Rattata and the large rock rat (Cremnomys elvira)

Critically Endangered in the wild, the large rock rat - also known as the elvira rat - is endemic to the Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu, India.


Rattata illustration from pokemon card
Large rock rat
© Brawin Kumar
This rodent is a far cry from the toothy poke-creature!

14. Rhydon and the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)

Rhydon is a large, grey Pokémon with features similar to both dinosaurs and rhinoceroses - including the Critically Endangered Javan rhino, found only in Indonesia. 

Rhydon pokemon charging
Javan rhino emerging from bush
Javan rhinos are the most threatened of the five species

15. Rhyhorn and the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)

The more evolved iteration of Pokemon's Rhydon, Rhyhorn shares similarities to the greater one-horned rhino, otherwise known as the Indian rhino or great Indian rhinoceros. 

Rhyhorn illustration from pokemon card
Greater one-horned rhino running through a marsh in Nepal
Rhyhorn shares similarities to the greater one-horned rhino

 16. Sandshrew and the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica)

Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Help us keep the sandshrews of the real world a part of our future.

Save the pangolins

Sandshrew pokemon card illustration
Pangolin with tongue out reaching ant
© Tran Quang Phuong
Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal

17. Sandslash and the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)

There are eight species of pangolin and Spiky Sandslash also takes his form from the world's only scaly mammal

Pangolin on a branch
© Jason S C Chin | Taipei Zoo
The Chinese pangolin may be the most endangered of them all

18. Seel and the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)

 This dweller of the fictitious Diablo's Ocean looks like it is based on a very real and very endangered seal species. The Mediterranean monk seal is the one of the most endangered pinniped species in the world. 

Seel pokemon
Mediterranean Monk Seal
© P. Dendrinos
Seel is based on an endangered seal species

19. Tauros and European Bison (Bison bonasus)

Named after the constellation 'Taurus', Tauros resembles a very real species of Bison native to Europe. You can find European bison at Whipsnade Zoo

Taros pokemon
European Bison
The European bison population is increasing

20. Vaporeon and the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

 The gills are a giveaway - mythical Vaporeon owes its elegant shape to the amphibious axolotl. Axolotls have incredible healing powers. They can regrow entire limbs, including their legs and tails. Even more amazingly, injured axolotls can actually re-grow missing parts of their brains!

Vaporeon Pokemon Go on phone with toy
Vaporeon owes its elegant shape to the axolotl

21. Vulpix and the California Channel Island fox (Urocyon littoralis)

 The psychic six-tailed fox owes its good looks to the distinctly-coloured Californian Channel Island fox.

California channel island fox in nature
Vulpix shares similarities with this fox species

22. Zubat and the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus primus)

 Enormous ears and fearsome fangs are a feature for these two who you'll only find lurking in the dark, at night.

Zubat pokemon
Cuban greater funnel-eared bat ears
© Lida Sanchez
Both of these bats have enormous ears and fearsome fangs
Find out more

Our EDGE Fellows are working around the globe to protect weird and wonderful species everywhere.