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Panda Porn and Other Desperate Measures to Get Rare Species to Mate

When you're one of the last of your species, scientists go to great lengths.

On the verge of extinction, mating prospects are bleak.

For species whose populations have plummeted, scientists have gone to great lengths to find animals a match. And to help low populations rebound, some scientists have devised unconventional methods.

"When a species is reduced to a population in single digits, the prospects for its continued survival are bleak but not zero," says Trond Larsen from Conservation International.

With the odds stacked against them, conservationists have been known to go the extra mile to keep a species from vanishing forever. The following are just a few examples.

A Dating Profile for Romeo

Romeo is a Sehuencas frog in Bolivia. Earlier this week, scientists at Bolivia's Cochabamba Natural History Museum created a match.com profile for the frog.

Romeo isn't looking for one special someone, he's looking for any sort of someone that's a Sehuencas frog like him. As the last known member of his species, scientists worry that he could soon face extinction.

"...not to start this off super heavy or anything, but I'm literally the last of my species," the profile begins.

Partnering with Global Wildlife Conservation, the museum is hoping to raise enough money to send biologists into the field to search for a mate. Since Romeo was first taken into captivity 10 years ago, another frog like him has yet to be found.

Sperm Donor for the Yangtzes

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A male Yangtze giant softshell turtle, Rafetus swinhoei, at the Suzhou Zoo in China.


There used to be many Yangtze turtles (also known as red river turtles). But their habitat has been subjected to rapid industrialization, and now only three exist in the worldโ€”that scientists know of.

A team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, in partnership with the National Geographic Society, are searching in southwestern China's Yunnan Province for signs of wild Yangtze turtles. Based on conversation with locals, scientists estimate one or two may be out there.

If an additional turtle is found, scientists are hoping to try to mate it with the other known individuals. To date, captive breeding efforts have not been successful.

Pandas Get a Romantic Boost

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An endangered giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, at Zoo Atlanta.


Overall, giant pandas have been a conservation success story. The species, once facing certain extinction, has made a slow but steady comeback.

But unlike some species that just need to be put in the same room together, pandas take a little more coaxing.

In 2006, zoos in Taiwan made headlines for showing the animals "panda porn." The zoo was having trouble getting their two pandas to make moves, and they hoped the mating videos would effectively serve as an instruction manual.

In fact, scientists have long had trouble getting pandas to mate when one or both partners are inexperienced. Artificial insemination is sometimes used when a pair fails to mate on their own.

The Last Resort for Northern White Rhinos

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A critically endangered Northern white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum cottoni, at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.


Northern white rhinos, a subspecies with only three left in its population, would require nothing short of a miracle to be saved from extinction.

The trio, two females and a male, are watched 24/7 by armed guards, who make sure they don't succumb to poachers at their home in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Last November, a tweet went viral that showed Sudan, the male, lying on the ground. The tweet came from biologist Daniel Schneider, who underscored that Sudan was the last male of his species.

It wasn't the first time Sudan stirred public sympathy. In May of last year, Ol Pejeta partnered with Tinder to launch a campaign to raise awareness about the rhino, "the most eligible bachelor in the world."

The campaign's goal was to raise money to fund new assisted reproductive techniques.

The price to make that happen? A whopping $9 million. But scientists say they aren't ready to give up quite yet.