Love you for life: Monogamous species celebrate Valentine’s Day

What do gibbons, swans, wolves, French Angelfish, and albatrosses have in common? This Valentine’s Day they will all be celebrating with their life-long partners—these species are some of the few creatures that mate for life.

White-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus leucogenys)

Gibbons: Love is in the air for these tree-dwelling primates, but for the Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) there are greater concerns than finding the perfect mate. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Western Hoolock Gibbon is listed as Endangered, as there is reason to believe the species has declined by at least 50% over the past three generations. In the next 40 years, this decline is likely to reach similar proportions due to continuing habitat loss.

Swans: Known as a universal symbol of love, swans form a monogamous bond with their mate that often lasts for life. The Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides), native to the border area between Russia, Mongolia and mainland China, is listed as Vulnerable because of its decreasing population trend in recent years. This is attributed to drought and considerable pressure from habitat loss.

Wolves: These furry mammals are howling in love—for their life-long partner. Wolves are the largest member of the dog family and very family-oriented; their pack consists of a male, female and their offspring. The Red Wolf (Canis rufus) is currently listed as Critically Endangered, and in the 1980s was deemed Extinct in the Wild. Very little is known about the Red Wolf because the species' range was severely reduced by the time scientific investigations began. Given their wide historical distribution, Red Wolves probably used a wide range of habitat types across North America at one time. Hybridization with coyotes is the primary threat to the species' persistence in the wild.

French Angelfish: Rarely caught without their mate by their side, French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) will fight for love. Pairs of French Angelfish are strongly territorial, with both members often vigorously defending their areas against neighboring pairs. This species is common in shallow rocky areas and coral reefs, and is found from Florida and the Bahamas to Brazil and straggling north to New York in the Gulf Stream. Currently, French Angelfish are listed as Least Concern with their population remaining stable—the only threat being collection for the aquarium trade.

Albatrosses: Love has no boundaries for albatrosses, a species which will cover lengthy distances to return to the same place and the same partner to breed. The Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) qualifies as Critically Endangered, owing to its extremely small breeding range and a projected rapid population decline over the next 70 years. The Tristan Albatross breeding populations are essentially restricted to Gough Island and the annual breeding population is estimated to be 2,700 pairs. This is equivalent to a total population of 11,300 birds for the species which breeds once every two years. Population declines are a result of very low adult survival owing to accidental deaths from long-line fisheries and low fledging success due to predators.

Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with a life-long partner, still searching for that special someone, or are a confirmed Valentine’s cynic, join us in our mission to keep these monogamous marvels (and all their polygamous fellow species) thriving. Happy Valentine’s Day from IUCN!

For more information, please contact:

• Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m +1 202 262 5313,
• Lynne Labanne, IUCN Species Programme Communications Officer, t +41 22 999 0153, m +41 79 527 7221,
• Camellia Williams, IUCN Species Programme Communications, t +41 22 999 0154,


The IUCN Red List threat categories are as follows, in descending order of threat:

  • Extinct or Extinct in the Wild
  • Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
  • Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
  • Least Concern: species evaluated with a lower risk of extinction;
  • Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data.
  • Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): this is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required, for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals
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