Why is it that all of the cute, handsome and (supposedly) more charismatic species get all of the limelight, while the more slimy, unrefined and strange members of the natural world are overlooked? Wildscreen Arkive’s Love Species campaign is here to change that, raising awareness of the world’s unloved and overshadowed species and getting them some much-needed and overdue affection on the run-up to the most love-filled day of the year, Valentine’s Day.
Twenty-three conservation organisations from around the world nominated a species that they thought needed some time to shine, and wrote a blog to let everyone know why their nominee deserves to be crowned the ‘World’s Favourite Unloved Species’.
After two weeks of ferocious competition, we received over 4,500 votes from 112 different countries and are very pleased to be able to announce the winner.
Here are a few clues about the winning species:
It is found in Australia and Asia…
It communicates by howling…
It has a bushy tail…
What is the No.1 World’s Favourite Unloved Species?
Every dog has its day, and this day well and truly belongs to the dingo!
It seems this much maligned and misunderstood canid may just be man’s best friend after all. Dingoes are crucial to their ever-changing ecosystem and many other endangered species within it, helping to control the feral fox and cat population that is threatening numerous species. Unfortunately, due to its carnivorous tendencies, the dingo often has run-ins with livestock farmers and is heavily persecuted throughout its range. Despite campaigns by scientists and conservation organisations, inhumane poison baiting programs continue, endangering the future survival of the dingo and other non-target species which consume the bait.
Continue showing your love for this species and support its conservation! Read the dingo’s blog, written by the Wildlife Land Trust, to find out more about how you can get involved in conserving the species, and how people are already helping.
Wildcats are the wild ancestors of the domestic cat, and bear a very similar resemblance to their close relatives, looking like a bigger, musclier tabby cat with a much thicker coat and distinctive markings. There are five subspecies of wildcat across its large range, including the Scotland-based Love Species nominee, which is known to be the biggest. A highly adaptable species, the wildcat can be found in numerous habitat types and is not a fussy eater, taking everything from rodents to young deer.
The original threat to the Scottish wildcat was extensive habitat loss throughout its range, which decimated the population. Today, a small population remains but is threatened due to hybridisation with feral and domestic cats, which is diluting the genetic purity of the species.
Pangolins are the world’s only scaly mammal and despite their reptile-like looks, their closest relatives are armadillos, anteaters and sloths. Pangolins are crucial to their ecosystems as they help to keep insect populations under control, eating up to 23,000 every single day. They are also ecosystem engineers, digging burrows that provide habitats for other species.
Unfortunately, pangolins have the unlucky title of being the world’s most trafficked mammal, and over a million have been caught and traded in the past decade to supply the traditional medicine and exotic meat trades in south-east Asia.
Hornbills are rather peculiar and prehistoric-looking birds and the helmeted variety is no exception. The helmeted hornbill is the largest species of its kind, armed with a fierce, bright red keratin bill which is used in combat between males when attempting to win access to the best fruit trees.
Unfortunately, this hornbill is targeted for the illegal wildlife trade and demand for the solid helmet-like structure on the upper half of its bill, also known as ‘red ivory’, has increased tenfold. It is thought that around 6,000 hornbills are lost for the trade each year and this trade, paired with habitat loss, has caused this species to be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Despite bearing a very similar pattern to zebra, the okapi’s closest relative is the much taller giraffe and the two species are the only living members of the Giraffidae family. The name okapi translates to ‘forest giraffe’. Endemic to the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo, the okapi is threatened by widespread habitat loss and hunting for bushmeat and for their skins. The presence of illegal armed groups in the areas surrounding the habitat of the okapi is highly detrimental to the conservation of this endangered species, as monitoring and conservation programmes are extremely difficult to implement.
One of the rarest and most little-known species in the world, the Philippine pond turtle is found in just five locations. An extremely shy species, this turtle only emerges from its den at dusk and spends the night foraging on aquatic animals and wild fruit.
There are many threats to this Critically Endangered reptile, and its initial decline was thought to be due to habitat loss. As with other freshwater turtles in the Philippines, this species is consumed by the local population and caught to be traded for traditional medicine. Additionally, after its rediscovery was reported in 2004, illegal pet traders began collecting Philippine pond turtles as, due to their rarity, individuals can be sold for up to $2,000 USD. Although the Philippine pond turtle is physically tough, it is highly susceptible to stress and does not do very well in captivity and repeated captive breeding attempts have failed every time.
Similarly to the other six sloths, the southern two-toed sloth is a seriously slow moving species, sleeping for up to 20 hours per day and it is known by locals throughout its range as prezoso meaning ‘lazy’. Spending much of its life in the trees, the southern two-toed sloth only descends from its canopy habitat to defecate or swim across water to a more attractive-looking area. Arguably one of the more handsome sloths, this species is found in Central and South American tropical rainforests, from Nicaragua to Brazil.
One of the largest pinniped species (the group to which includes carnivorous aquatic mammals such as sea lions, seals and walruses belong), the walrus is famed for its enormous tusks each of which can reach lengths of up to a metre. Incredibly, male walruses can measure up to 320 centimetres from head to tail and weigh up to 1,500 kilograms. Walruses are incredibly social animals, often being found in herds of up to a thousand individuals.
Capable of living in some of the harshest environments on Earth, the walrus is now threatened by the warming climate which is causing the loss of sea ice across the Arctic. The ever-prominent threat of oil and natural resource exploration threatens the walrus and all other species within the Arctic ecosystem.
Spotted hyaenas are also known as laughing hyaeanas due to the manic, cackle-like calls that they use to communicate with other members of their clan. Seen as scavengers, they are often put at the bottom of people’s lists of favourite creatures, along with cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies. Many people believe that hyaenas are ugly and sinister and being linked to witchcraft does not do much for their reputation either. However, spotted hyaenas are fantastic mothers, fiercely loyal, wonderfully social and are extremely skilled hunters, not just scavengers as they are commonly believed to be.
Very frequently persecuted throughout their range, spotted hyaenas are often associated with attacks on livestock and are therefore very unpopular with local human populations. As human populations increase and encroach on the habitat of the spotted hyaena further, there will be more incidences of human-wildlife conflict which could threaten the future of this highly misunderstood animal. Community programmes to reduce this conflict and encourage harmony between people and nature could be the key to this species’ survival.
This elusive, rare and little-known cat is found exclusively in northern Borneo, although its distribution is thought to have once been spread across the whole island. The Borneo bay cat is probably the rarest of the world's 37 cat species and occurs at a lower density than tigers, clouded leopards and snow leopards, and it has only been recorded in the wild a few dozen times.
The rainforest habitat of the Borneo bay cat is being rapidly converted into agricultural land and illegal logging is prolific in the areas in which it is found, causing an ongoing decline in suitable habitat. Despite scientists knowing so little about the life of this species, there are conservation measures in place which are attempting to protect the habitat of the Borneo bay cat and learn more about it.