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You are a secret agent in the service of the KGB. After a delay when your superiors thought your cover had been blown before you even left Russia, you successfully infiltrated MI6 and worked for several months under the pseudonym of Flynn Smith before receiving a warning that this time you really must get out. You spent a long period hiding out on the island of Reunion before finally being summoned to Cairo, where you met a man from the Russian embassy who told you that your escape route back to Russia was being prepared.

It's taken far too long - unfortunately, MI6 has a strong presence in the Middle East as well as the KGB, and you need to avoid being picked up by the British - but finally you receive a mysterious email which seems to fit with the pattern of those you've received before from your superiors:

From: World Wildlife Fund < pandanation@wwfus.org >
Sent: Wed, 14 Dec 2016 12:07PM +0400
To: ██████████████████████
Subject: Please donate to help save endangered animals

Dear Mr Smith,

All over the world, unique and special animal species are dying out due to persecution, habitat destruction, and climate change. We at the World Wildlife Fund, along with other similar organisations, put every possible effort into preventing the human destruction of nature, but we need YOUR help to do so. Donate now to help us in our fight to save animals such as these:

one

two

three

four

five

six

seven

eight

nine

ten

Any amount of money, no matter how small, could help to make a difference to our world. We eagerly await your aid.

Yours sincerely,
the World Wildlife Fund

It takes you a while to figure out the hidden message - the first image throws you for a while, until you notice its age, and the last few don't seem to fit at first. But eventually you have it all worked out, and begin to plan the next stage of your journey. Soon you'll be on your way back to the motherland again, after far too long out in the field.

What is the hidden message?

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I think you should probably head for

Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in Syria.

The animals' significance is

their binomial "Latin" names; of note is that the first one (the Arctic fox) was renamed at some point from Alopex lagopus to Vulpes lagopus and it's the former that we need, hence the remark about the age of the image.

From these we

take the first letter of the genus and the first letter of the species

yielding

AL Alopex lagopus
LG Lama glama
OO Orcinus orca
--- (no animal here)
TA Tachyglossus aculeatus
KE Kobus ellipsiprymnus
PL Panthera leo
AN Addax nasomaculatus
EL Enhydra lutris
TK Tragulus kanchil

and hence

ALLGOO??TAKEPLANELTK

I guess the fourth image

indicates a lone D, though I'm not entirely sure why. Here are some possibilities. (1) In the middle of the red X there is something that may be meant to be a letter "D". It's only a few pixels across, but it's asymmetric in a way that would fit with it being a D rather than a circle. (2) Perhaps we should interpret it as "deleted" or something of the kind, and take the first letter of that. (3) As M Oehm suggests in comments, perhaps we should just take the image to mean "something goes here that doesn't have an encoding in our system", in this case a letter D plus a punctuation mark.

Aha,

#1 is in fact clearly correct because the image shown here is only a thumbnail and we can retrieve the full-size version by removing the "t" from its URL. I hadn't know about that imgur feature before. So: it's a D because it's an image with a D in it.

The last few "don't seem to fit at first" because

the text stops forming words -- but presumably LTK is to be interpreted as an airport code. It is the code for Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in Syria, which is not so very far from Cairo where you are currently located. It isn't perfectly clear to me whether to take this as "drive to Syria and take a plane from LTK" or as "fly from Cairo to LTK", but never mind.

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  • $\begingroup$ A google image search yields 'design', for some reason. Maybe it's supposed to be 'delete'? $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir Dec 14 '16 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe. Or "deleted". $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 14 '16 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent job, and faster than expected! Just that fourth image to deal with now (and you may want to kick me once you've solved it). $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 14 '16 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ This looks like a broken image icon. The missing letters could be D plus a punctuation mark and the icon indicates that there is no suitable image that could be shown. Remember how V indicated a punctuation in the Scrabble puzzle, because there were no useful words with V? $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 14 '16 at 15:12

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