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6 of Nature’s Loneliest Animals Looking for Love

The London Zoo recently put out a call to collectors that doubled as the animal version of a personals ad. The zoo was looking for females of the Mangarahara cichlid, a species of fish so rare that none are thought to exist in the wild, and one that is in critical danger of going extinct...

The London Zoo recently put out a call to collectors that doubled as the animal version of a personals ad.

The zoo was looking for females of the Mangarahara cichlid, a species of fish so rare that none are thought to exist in the wild, and one that is in critical danger of going extinct entirely if the zoo’s two males and a further bachelor fish at a zoo in Berlin don’t find mates soon.

A male Mangarahara cichlid.
Dateless: A male Mangarahara cichlid. Photograph from ZSL/AP

Many creatures are in this situation because they are endemic (i.e. unique) to specific areas and habitats and therefore at increased risk for extinction, or else because their numbers have been reduced by habitat destruction or hunting and poaching.

The Mangarahara cichlid isn’t alone. Here are some other lonely creatures looking for a friend.

Lonesome George

The tortoise Lonesome George
Lonesome George was the last of his kind. Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

One of the most well-known members of the Forlorn Creatures Club was the aptly named Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise from the Galapagos who sadly passed away last year after several failed attempts to successfully mate him with another tortoise and thereby continue the subspecies. At over 100 years old Lonesome George at least had a good run, but it was a long and solitary one (see “Lonesome George Not the Last of His Kind, After All?“).

Here are a few other lonesome creatures who we hope can find love and avoid a similar fate.

Beauty Spots

A young Amur leopard, one of the world’s rarest felines. Photograph by Luca Barovier, Your Shot

The forests of Eastern Russia may not seem like big cat country but they are in fact home to the Amur leopard, a quick, clever, and striking feline of which only roughly 30 are thought to exist. Their eye-catching appearance is actually part of the problem. Despite their critically low numbers, the leopards are still being killed by poachers for their valuable skins.

Further compounding the Amur’s population problem is a food problem: It’s typical prey of deer and hare are often hunted by the residents of nearby villages, making it difficult for the population to grow. Luckily for the Amur leopard the Russian government took action in 2012 to create a 650,000-acre (263,046-hectare) protected zone called Land of the Leopard National Park, giving the species a fighting (and loving) chance.

Big Love

Then there’s the Javan rhinoceros. Once common throughout Southeast Asia, these lonely hulks are now isolated entirely to Ujung Kulon National Park in western Java, with fewer than 100 individuals thought to be remaining. As perhaps the rarest large mammal on Earth, needless to say their situation is critical and it’s in the interest of biodiversity that their love lives be as exciting as possible.

Lonely Mountains

A mountain gorilla
Mountain gorillas continue to face pressures. Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Now spare a thought for a lonely heart from our own great ape family: the mountain gorilla of Central and East Africa. As humans have encroached on their habitat, mountain gorillas have been driven to higher, more unforgiving altitudes. The main factor putting the squeeze on the mountain gorilla is habitat loss, as displaced humans from conflict zones move in and in turn displace the gorillas, clearing flora for agriculture and to make charcoal.

Thanks to conservation efforts populations have stabilized somewhat in the past few years, though with a population estimated to be under 900 they remain critically endangered.

Small Porpoise, Big Pond

A vaquita dolphin caught in a fishing net
A vaquita porpoise caught in a fishing net. Photograph by Flip Nicklin, National Geographic

The vaquita is a mini-porpoise that makes its home in Mexico’s Gulf of California. It has suffered as a casualty of the fishing industry, getting unintentionally caught and killed in nets (a phenomenon known as “bycatch”). Because of this there are estimated to be only 200 individuals remaining.

Since their dolphin cousins are famously frisky animals, with prehensile penises, who even copulate face-to-face, populations would hopefully rebound if the porpoises were left to their own devices and free of human ones. One can only hope that efforts to eliminate bycatch incidents will be sucessful and that the vaquita will be left to get busy getting busy. (See video of restoration in the Colorado River Delta.)

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Meet the Author

Stefan Sirucek
Stefan Sirucek is a writer and journalist who reports from both sides of the Atlantic. He's written for the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @sirstefan.