Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about romance, but that’s not really something animals (aside from the human variety) put much emphasis on. No Hallmark card from bull to cow; no box of chocolates to fawn over; no foreplay before turtle sex (which, uh, sounds disturbingly human).
And that’s all good and fine. But some animals really, really need to get busy procreating in the existential sense. Humans may have a romantic notion of nature, but in reality we’ve ransacked the planet and are creating what many scientists have deemed the sixth mass extinction. This is jeopardizing the future of thousands of species.
Here’s a few that we hope get lucky this Valentine’s Day, if not for their sake, then for the sake of the planet.
Romeo, the sole Sehuencas water frog
As you may have guessed by his name, Romeo the frog will do anything for love—even let an online dating app help him “find his Juliette.” This year, Global Wildlife Conservation is teaming up with Match.com to raise money to send biologists out looking in the wilds of Bolivia for potential Juliettes.
Romeo, the only known living specimen of his kind, has been held captive for almost a decade in Cochabamba City, Bolivia. Sehuencas water frogs typically live around 15 years, according to Smithsonian Magazine, so time is of the essence. Climate change, habitat loss, pollution, the deadly chytrid amphibian pathogen have all contributed to the rapid decline of his species, which used to inhabit rivers and streams in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Nigel, the lonely seabird
It’s too late for Nigel, a beloved gannet who lived alone on an island off New Zealand, and who died in late January. But his memory shall be kept alive this Valentine’s Day, for Nigel was devoted to mating—he just couldn’t find a (living) mate.
When Nigel arrived on the island of Mana in 2013 he became the first gannet to live there in 40 years. Nigel spent the ensuing years courting lifeless concrete gannet replicas—there to attract real-life birds—only to have some able-bodied female gannets arrive shortly before his death. In what makes the story a true tragedy, Nigel never turned his attention to the living birds, choosing to remain aloof, chattering to his concrete mates right up until his death, according to The Guardian
And if that doesn’t put you in the mood for love, nothing will.
Sudan, the only male northern white rhino
There are three northern white rhinos alive and only one male, 43-year-old Sudan. They all live under 24-hour guard in Kenya, where mating is priority number one. The only reason Sudan is alive today is because he was being exhibited in a zoo while the rest of his subspecies was annihilated by poaching. However, those in captivity have failed to breed.
A November photo that captured Sudan’s current mood and permanent plight went viral, reminding us all of just how sad it can feel to be alone, Valentine’s Day or not.
Sudan is already old for his species and probably doesn’t have much time left. Meanwhile, conservationists are searching for new ways to preserve his lineage, including in vitro fertilization and stem-cell technology.
The Yangtze giant softshell turtle
The last breeding pair of Yangtze giant softshell turtles, the largest freshwater turtles in the world, are 110-year-old Susu and 90-year-old Xiangxiang in China. Also known as Red River turtles, there may be a few more alive in the wilds of China or Vietnam, but otherwise these two are it. Imagine being 100 years old and having to produce offspring? Yeah, sounds hard. Scientists have been trying for a decade to get the pair to mate successfully, but it’s looking like artificial insemination might be only remaining option.
Even though turtles have long been significant in Chinese culture, that hasn’t stopped development—including massive hydropower dams—and population growth from pushing these cherished turtles to the brink of extinction. While the Yangtze turtle is caught in especially dire straits, nearly all species of marine turtles are threatened. On top of all the habitat degradation, their eggs, meat, and skin make them appealing to poachers.
Mutant marbled crayfish: no male, no cry
Ever wish you were part of an all-female species that could reproduce on its own and rapidly take over the world? Well, a new variety of crayfish is living out your dreams if so.
A recent study found the six-inch-long, ten-legged marbled crayfish to be one of the most remarkable species known to science; and that its amazingness is allowing it to multiply rapidly and invade ecosystems across the world.
As the BBC reports, the original mutant crayfish, born to a male and female slough crayfish, had an additional set of chromosomes that allowed it to reproduce without a mate. Fast-forward a couple decades and the crayfish—now officially deemed its own species—has been found in the wild in Japan, Madagascar, the U.S., and multiple European countries.
In fact, the crayfish is now threatening indigenous species, and the European Union and several U.S. states have already banned it from being owned or traded.
Sounds like the marbled crayfish is truly thriving at being single.