Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Giant devilray

Nominated by: Project AWARE

Conservation status: Endangered

Why do you love it? Found predominately in the Mediterranean Sea, the giant devil ray is a close cousin of the manta and other devil rays. Like sharks, mantas are at the top of every diver’s must-see list. But the giant devil ray doesn’t quite get the same ‘bucket list’ attention, nor is as well-known as our shark and manta friends. However this ray is huge – reaching six metres in length. And it’s impressive. Its large pectoral fins help it cross great stretches of ocean with gentle wing-like beats.

With the word “Devil” in its name, it’s certainly a very intriguing and unique species. Devil rays are the only vertebrates that have three pairs of working limbs: pectoral fins, pelvic fins and cephalic fins. The latter is where they get their name from. When they are not feeding, their cephalic fins are curled and point forward and down, giving the appearance of devil horns.

But there is nothing devilish about this ray. It belongs to a family of 11 species that desperately needs a lot of love.  Fishing, bycatch and marine debris are all threatening ray populations – many of which are on the decline. So Project AWARE is excited to bring some much needed attention to the magnificent giant devil ray and its entire family who really do need a “Whole Lotta Love”.

What are the threats to the giant devilray? Although there is no directed fishery for the giant devil ray, incidental catch and mortality rates are high. When caught as bycatch the species is usually discarded but occasionally it is landed and sold to market. Giant devil rays produce only one large offspring every two to five years so its natural reproductive system adds to the species survival struggles.

The demand for gill rackers – the feathery structures these filter feeders use to strain food as they glide through the water – is on the increase leaving conservationists concerned. And although there have been some conservation measures placed – the General Fisheries Commission for the Meditterean (GFCM) has agreed protection for the giant devil ray based on species listing under the Barcelona Convention – compliance reporting for these measures is sadly lacking.

Secondary threats to the devils include marine debris – ingestion of microplastics – boat strikes and oil spills.

What are you doing to save it? Shark and ray overexploitation – overfishing, bycatch and finning – remains largely unregulated globally. Project AWARE is a global movement of scuba divers protecting our ocean planet – one dive at a time.  It is the scuba divers’ voice and support that fuels our science-based advocacy to advance conservation of sharks and ray in peril, like the majestic giant devil ray.

We fight for limiting catches, protecting the most vulnerable species, reducing bycatch, and implementing effective finning bans at national, regional, and international levels.

And, in the case of this underloved family of devils, we do so by advocating for safeguards in international trade under CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and national protections under CMS (Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals).

Find out more about Project AWARE

Learn more about manta and devilrays by downloading Project AWARE’s Mantas at Risk Infographic

Discover more ray and skate species on Arkive