Catching a glimpse of a tiger in an Indian forest. Watching an orang-utan snap off a tree branch to use as a scratching stick. Seeing a black rhino nuzzle its young. They're all astonishing sights available to travellers today, but which we're all sickeningly aware might not be there for our children or grandchildren.
With the latest UN-backed report revealing that 1 million of the world's species are now under threat of extinction, the future can look bleak. But going to see those animals while we still can may hold the key to their long-term survival, say the experts.
''Eco-tourism can be a critical tool in conservation because it provides a sustainable income stream to local communities and shows them that these animals are worth more to them alive than dead,'' says Cameron Kerr, the director and chief executive of Taronga Conservation Society Australia.
''Eco-tourism can also be very labour-intensive and the work it provides helps people have pride in themselves and their culture and ways of living. It's an important factor in helping protect wildlife, and seeing these animals builds empathy and changes people's behaviour. We absolutely relate to wildlife, it's in our genes.''
Saving endangered animals from extinction is all about winning hearts and minds, then acting strategically to arrest the decline in numbers, usually caused by poaching, being hunted for meat, deforestation, poisoning of the ecosystem or global warming. Then there's work to be done to preserve natural habitats and repopulate the ecosystem.
That mission has acquired a fresh urgency with the new UN-Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Global Assessment Report released last month. It was compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries over three years. It found that more animal and plant species are threatened with extinction than ever before in human history.
''Biodiversity and nature's contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity's most important life-supporting safety net,'' says report co-chair Professor Sandra Diaz. ''But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point.''
It's a warning we're receiving from award-winning naturalist Sir David Attenborough, too. He charmed us all for decades with his mesmerising documentaries about the splendour of the world's creatures, but is now using his standing to show us how critically they're endangered.
Darren Grover, the head of living ecosystems at the World Wildlife Fund, says Attenborough's passion is infectious. ''He used Our Planet to really show us the stories of the threats to wildlife as well as how beautiful it is,'' he says. ''And we should be alarmed. So many species are in grave danger and we know what the answers are and we have to have the motivation to do what needs to be done.
''While it's wonderful to see those documentaries too, there's nothing like actually seeing animals ourselves. A couple of years ago, I saw a tiger in the wild which was breathtaking, and an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Seeing those animals can make a huge difference to our lives.''
Australia has a particularly poor record in protecting wildlife, with hundreds of species disappearing since European settlement. Now, with one in three of our unique mammals at risk - and that's not even considering the controversial black-throated finch at the centre of the Adani mine controversy - it's even more important that we get out and about to see them, says James Fitzsimons, director of conservation at the Nature Conservancy Australia.
''There's so much that needs to be done to conserve our species whether by offering financial incentives, increased funding or buying new reserves,'' he says. ''It's great for people to go out and see them, and then really feel the urgency of helping.''
MOUNTAIN GORILLAS AND CROSSRIVER GORILLAS
THE HABITATS: Mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cross River Gorillas in Nigeria and Cameroon.
STATUS: There are only 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild and, at most, 300 Cross River gorillas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species classifies them as endangered as a result of habitat loss, hunting, civil conflict and disease.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: Strictly controlled small-group gorilla-trekking safaris can run throughout the year in Uganda and Rwanda, with the Classic Safari Company one of the top operators.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Make a contribution to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (gorillafund.org); recycle old mobile phones and electronics to reduce the demand for metals mined in gorilla areas; and check products don't contain palm oil.
THE DETAILS: The most popular time for seeing gorillas is between December and February, and June to September when it is drier. See classicsafaricompany.com.au
THE HABITATS: They live in the small remaining patches of forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
STATUS: With heavy black stripes on their orange coats, this smallest of the tiger species has been hunted ruthlessly and now fewer than 400 remain in the wild, with deforestation a further huge threat. They're now critically endangered.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: Kerinci Seblat National Park on Sumatra has the highest population of tigers on the island at up to 190 animals and is acclaimed by the Global Tiger Initiative as a protected area with important work being done for conservation. Trekking offers the only hope of seeing them, but they are shy and nocturnal, so sightings can be rare.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Make a donation to the International Tiger Project (tiger.org.au) which funds Wildlife Protection Units, training local people as rangers to protect the tigers, stop illegal logging and keep data on numbers.
THE DETAILS: Lonely Planet has declared Wild Sumatra Adventures as the most conservation-minded trek operator in the area, ploughing five per cent of its funds back into tiger protection. See wildsumatra.com
HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLES
THE HABITATS: This small turtle lives in the warm tropical coastline waters of the Pacific and Indian Ocean.
STATUS: It's the most endangered species of turtle and in the top 10 of creatures at risk worldwide, with perhaps only about 8000 turtles left. They're been hunted for years for their beautifully patterned ''tortoiseshell'' shells, which are turned into jewellery and ornaments. Natural predators and climate change are also significant threats.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: The Kimberley region of Western Australia is known to have a good population, with nesting occurring mostly from October to January. They can be difficult to see but guides are trained at spotting them in the water and on the sandy beaches of the coastline. The best way is to take a Kimberley cruise.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Donate to the Sea Turtle Foundation (facebook.com/SeaTurtleFoundation) set up to support vital research into turtle populations, educating communities about what can be done to help and taking direct action against threats in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region.
THE DETAILS: Take a Kimberley cruise with a company like APT which has a series of guides and wildlife experts, skilled at spotting turtles and dedicated to preserving the pristine environment. See aptouring.com.au
THE HABITATS: This black-and-white bear, the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), lives mostly in bamboo forests in the mountains of western China.
STATUS: Its status is ''vulnerable'' with just over 1800 pandas thought to be living in the wild. The pandas' primary habitat, the Yangtze Basin region, is at the centre of China's economic boom, with roads and railways encroaching on the forests and disrupting mating patterns.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: The Chinese government has established more than 50 panda reserves, and the best place to see them is at Dujiangyan Panda Base an hour's drive north of Chengdu, and the nearby Panda Conservation Centre, where travellers can see the feeding of the younger cubs.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Become a Panda Ambassador with the WWF, and play an active role in local and global initiatives the organisation undertakes, with education symposiums, fundraising drives and helping raise awareness of the issues.
THE DETAILS: Book a Wendy Wu China tour that includes visits to see giant pandas. See wendywutours.com.au
THE HABITATS: This vegetarian species lives in savannah and woodland areas of southern and eastern Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania.
STATUS: Black rhinos are classified by the IUCN as critically endangered, with three subspecies declared extinct in 2011, and only about 5000 black rhino left in the wild after 96 per cent of the population was wiped out by poachers between 1960 and 1995. Demand for illegally trafficked rhino horn remains particularly high in Asia, where it is considered a status symbol and an ingredient in bogus medicinal uses. Anti-poaching measures are now seeing the population lift slightly.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: There are several conservation projects in wildlife areas of Africa, with safaris through the regions. The greatest numbers are in South Africa and Kenya.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Never buy rhino horn or anything made from rhino horn and write to the Australian government asking them to lobby China to re-impose the ban they recently lifted on using horn for traditional medicine. Sign up to the WWF's Adopt A Rhino program to help its efforts stopping poaching and preserving the species. See worldwildlife.org
THE DETAILS: Book an African safari through a reputable company such as Bench Africa. See benchafrica.com
BORNEAN AND SUMATRAN ORANG-UTANS
THE HABITATS: These two species of tree-dwelling animals are solitary, known for their intelligence - even making simple tools - and forage in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
STATUS: Once found throughout south-east Asia, they're now confined to two islands, with their numbers more than halved over the past 60 years because of humans advancing into their forests and poaching them for their meat and to be used as pets. They're now both considered highly endangered.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: One of the best places is at Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park and its orang-utan sanctuary, Camp Leakey, which works with the animals in their natural habitat. Cruise line Silversea has partnered Camp Leakey and takes guests on cruises around the region to the camp.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Through the Orangutan Foundation International, become an orang-utan foster parent and help care for displaced and orphaned orang-utans during their rehabilitation back into the wild. See orangutan.org
THE DETAILS: Check out Silversea Cruises for their next voyage. See silversea.com
THE HABITATS: The floating sea ice of the Arctic, with the mammals being good swimmers who spend 50 per cent of their time hunting for food - their favourite tidbits being seals.
STATUS: With their habit in dire straits through global warming melting the ice, they were listed as a threatened species in 2008 and are now considered to be vulnerable with a dramatically reduced population possibly as low as 22,000.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: An Arctic cruise is the best way to see polar bears, with an operator such as Scenic which uses Zodiacs and kayaks to travel close to ice floes to see the bears.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: A significant cause of climate change is the emission of polluting gases from burning fossil fuels so, individually, we could use our cars less, rug up in winter rather use heating, and use energy-efficient appliances, as well as lobbying government to adhere to emission reduction targets.
THE DETAILS: Scenic operates the ship Scenic Eclipse that can cruise into tiny harbours and through fiords. See scenic.com.au
THE HABITATS: Giant tortoises, the largest living tortoises in the world, are found only on the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador in South America, where they feed on fruit, grasses, leaves and vines sometimes till up to 200 years of age.
STATUS: They're now listed as vulnerable after hunting them for food, their shells and for the oil that can be harvested from them nearly wiped them out in the early days. These days, their eggs are often threatened by introduced species like cats, rats, dogs and pigs and it's estimated that only about 15,000 remain. ''Lonesome George'', the world-famous single surviving tortoise from Pinta Island in the north of the Galapagos, died in 2012 after all efforts to find him a mate failed. That sub-species is now extinct.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a sure-fire way to see them as, once sighted, they, of course, move very slowly. World Expeditions runs a hike, bike and kayak trip around the islands, after a flight from Quito or Guayaquil.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Adopt a giant tortoise through the WWF and receive a plush toy to remind you of your charge, and a photo of your adoptee.
THE DETAILS: World Expeditions has regular trips to the Galapagos. See worldexpeditions.com
THE HABITATS: Snow leopards like steep, rugged terrain with cliffs and gullies, and can be found in the mountains of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Myanmar.
STATUS: They're endangered with only about 4000 thought to exist in the wild. They've been poached or killed by livestock shepherds worried about their herds, and there's also been a shortage of prey.
HOW AND WHERE TO SEE THEM: Intrepid runs tours to the wild west of Mongolia, where snow leopards live. They're elusive and tricky to spot, but you might be lucky.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO: Help fund a project to help snow leopards through the Snow Leopard Trust, like supporting small grassroots conservation projects initiated and managed by herders in Mongolia. Seesnowleopard.org
THE DETAILS: Intrepid's 15-day Mongolia expedition starts and ends in Ulaanbaatar, around lakes and mountains. See nomads, ibex, eagle hunters ... And maybe snow leopards. See intrepidtravel.com