Rather than filling your head with an endless list of exotic places where you could enjoy a candlelit dinner for two, this Valentine’s Day we’ve decided to look to the animal kingdom for signs of true love in the wild. We’ve picked out a few of the romantic rituals and cute courtships carried out by creatures around the world…
Emperor penguins breed during Antarctica’s long, harsh winter and rely on one another immensely. As soon as the female lays the egg, she leaves it in the care of her loyal mate, while she embarks on a two-month journey in search of food for the family. The male keeps the egg warm, balancing it on his feet under a feathery layer of skin, until it is ready to hatch. During this time he eats almost nothing, saving his last bits of stored food for his newly hatched chick and waiting patiently for the return of his mate, who will bring fresh supplies.
Despite gathering in flocks that can consist of hundreds of thousands of individuals, flamingos usually remain monogamous for life. The male will woo the female with a series of courtship rituals and marches, and once he has worked his magic the female flamingo will take charge of the situation, selecting a location for their nesting site which her loving partner will then help her build. The female will then lay a single egg in the nest, and the two birds will take turns at incubating the egg and rearing the young chick once it has hatched.
Gibbons are an acrobatic species endemic to the thick forests of southern Asia. They are predominantly monogamous creatures, which is a real rarity in the primate world. Once a pair have mated, they stick together and form a strong family unit in which to raise their young. They use loud and distinctive calls to mark out their territory and keep other creatures away. Male and female gibbons will share parenting duties fairly evenly, and even spend time grooming one another.
We think otters are some of the most romantic creatures possible, as once they mate they become totally inseparable. They famously hold hands when they sleep to stop them from floating apart. As otters spend so much of their time in the water, they need a way to keep their loved ones close by. This tactic of floating on their backs and forming a raft with their bodies is used when they’re eating too, and when they simply want to chill out and spend some quality time together.
Although not monogamous, we think there is something fairly impressive about the peacock’s method of wooing a mate. The male will use his beautifully coloured tail to impress a prospective partner, fanning it out and showing it off in a special dance. It is believed that the females (known as peahens) choose their mate based on the size, colour and quality of his tail feathers, which can make up more than 60% of the male’s total body length and feature hues of blue green, gold and even red.
The Kirk’s dik-dik is one of the smaller antelopes in the African bush. These graceful creatures believe in soul mates, and once they have found a mate they will stay together forever, rarely leaving one another’s side. They will raise one offspring at a time, carefully preparing it for adulthood, because as soon as they welcome a new child into the world they will pack the older sibling off into the wild, where it is expected to fend for itself, find a mate, and repeat the process of its parents.