Somewhere in a hidden pocket of forest in New Zealand a South Island kōkako may be singing to impress his date, while a chunky catfish cruises the waters of Lake Tota in Columbia in search of that special someone. In an underground aquifer in Texas, you might find a Blanco blind salamander sniffing out a partner with whom to split a tasty invertebrate. These are just three of the 25 species currently listed on Re:wild’s top 25 most wanted lost species list – a collection of creatures you've probably never heard of that have been absent from academic records for some time. 

New species have just been added to the list to replace those that have been rediscovered courtesy of the Search for Lost Species program. So this Valentine's Day, forget about jewellery and overpriced dinners and instead show some love for the species desperately seeking to be seen and wishing for better conservation policies that protect them long into the future (and chocolate probably, because even blind salamanders deserve chocolate).

Fat Catfish


Once described as “the closest a fish could get to the Michelin Man,” the fat catfish is one bootilicious bottom-dweller. Only ten records exist for the unique species with the last known specimen collected back in 1957 in Lake Tota in the Andes Mountains – the only place the fish is known to live. Before their disappearance, the voluptuous catfish were sometimes caught and their fat extracted for use in lamps, but that's unlikely to be the reason they vanished. Some theories suggest that the introduction of trout may have played a role. Ichthyologists are hopeful that the freshwater heavyweights are still hiding out in the bottom of Lake Tota waiting to make a dramatic reentrance into the scientific literature.

Togo Mouse


If short and mysterious is your cup of tea then the Togo mouse is just the lost species for you. Known only from two individuals collected in 1890, the rodents are thought to hang out in pockets of forest in Ghana and Togo. If the stomach contents of the two specimens on record are anything to go by, an insect dinner is preferred, while their short tails suggest that they probably spend most of their time on the ground rather than scrambling around in the tree canopy. Efforts to find the species have thus far been unsuccessful but local knowledge from hunters and field staff suggest that they could still be out there. The best ones are worth waiting for.

Dwarf Hutia


Last seen 85 years ago, the dwarf hutia is a guinea pig-like rodent that once lived all over Cuba. Competition with introduced species like black rats and mongooses pushed the species to the brink. If they are still out there, it's likely that they are hiding out in the Zapata Swamp, a remote wilderness 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Havana. While most rodents give birth to many offspring in a single litter, the dwarf hutia has just one baby at a time, which is one of the reasons population growth is likely to be slow.

South Island kōkako


The New Zealand Department of Conservation had all but given up on the South Island kōkako and declared the species extinct in 2008. But in 2013 new evidence surfaced of a verified sighting from six years earlier that allowed them to overturn their decision. No confirmed reports of the birds have surfaced since, but ornithologists and birders remain hopeful that the crow-like kōkako are still out there singing their melancholy tune.

Blanco blind salamander


To describe the Blanco blind salamander as an introvert would probably be an understatement. The species is only known from a single discovery back in 1951 by a team of workers excavating a crevice in the bed of Texas's Blanco River (which was dry at the time). The spot where they were found has since been buried in gravel and sediment and it's unknown if the salamanders are still hiding out in underground aquifers. They have the sort of dogged survivability you'd hope for in a lost species: they can breathe through their skin, are depigmented and probably feed on groundwater invertebrates. The search has already begun to find out if these hardy creatures have managed to survive declining groundwater quality and quantity. We're rooting for a rediscovery (just look at that grin).

Header image: Auckland Museum Collections