Good News: 9 Recovering Iconic Species
Thousands of species are threatened with extinction, but conservation efforts are helping a few make comebacks.
We hear plenty of bad news about our planet’s shrinking biodiversity. Some 26,500 species of plants and animals are known to be threatened with extinction, according to the red list of the IUCN, an international conservation group. However, fewer than 2 million species have been discovered on this globe, and scientists estimate there may be 100 million yet to identify. So nobody knows how many are endangered or have already gone extinct in recent yeas, due to the various ways humans encroach on or otherwise damage habitat.
But some species recover. Scientists at the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) just announced nine species that are doing OK in 2019, thanks to conservation efforts:
The largest cat in the Americas, “the jaguar has been threatened by habitat depletion due to the conversion of forest for development and agriculture, and killing in response to the loss of livestock,” WCS said. “The jaguar is now restricted to the extreme northern limits of Argentina in its southern range, while it has been eliminated across much of its historic range in Central America.” Due to conservation efforts, populations have stabilized or are growing. “Jaguars have shown signs of recovery in their northern range and may possibly return to the southern U.S.,” WCS said.
Humpback whales are everywhere, from just off New York City’s beaches to oceans around the world, involving several different populations. Whaling long ago took a toll on these beasts. Most of the world’s humpback populations have increased with protections, and all but four have been removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List.
Burmese Star Tortoises
Burmese star tortoises are found only in a dry region of Myanmar. They were nearly wiped out in the mid-1990s by wildlife markets in China. A WCS breeding program grew the population from around 175 to more than 14,000 today, both wild and captive.
Greater Adjutant Storks
Collecting of eggs and chicks caused the number of breeding pairs of this Cambodian bird to fall to about 30, and after a decade of conservation efforts there are more than 200 now.
Kihansi Spray Toads
“The Kihansi spray toad is the first amphibian species to be successfully restored to the wild after being declared extinct in nature,” WCS said. A dam built 20 years ago “dramatically changed the mist environment relied upon by these unique toads — found nowhere else on earth.” Before they went extinct, the Tanzanian government worked with WCS to breed some. An artificial misting system now replicates the spray zone, and the Bronx Zoo has sent some 8,000 toads back to Tanzania.
Maleos in Sulawesi
“In Indonesia’s Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, endemic and endangered maleos are rapidly recovering, thanks to solid efforts focused on nesting ground management, semi-natural hatcheries, and local guardianship,” WCS said.
The endangered scarlet macaw in Guatemala “is soaring back thanks to conservation interventions,” WCS said. Poaching and habitat loss had pushed the numbers down to about 250. “Over the last 15-plus years, WCS has intervened through an integrated approach, including law enforcement monitoring, community-based conservation, field science, aviculture and husbandry, such as incubating eggs and hand raising at-risk chicks.” The fledging rate is now the highest it’s been in 17 years.
Tigers in Western Thailand
Panthera tigris suffered the plight of many large cats: poaching. Increase ranger patrols have brought the species back from just 41 in 2010 to 66 today.
Tens of millions of bison (they are not buffalo) roamed the plains of North American until they were slaughtered by settlers, reducing the population to about 1,100 in the early 1900s. “WCS field and Bronx Zoo conservationists have worked to protect and restore bison since the early 1900s when our founder, William Hornaday, rallied conservationists, politicians, and ranchers to start new herds of bison at nine locations around the U.S.” That campaign evolved into “the first major wildlife conservation success in world history,” WCS says.
Like many species that have had their numbers severely reduced, bison aren’t out of the woods yet. Most bison are still held in captivity. “Just a few wild bison herds remain and most of these are small isolated populations facing the gradual loss of genetic diversity,” WCS has said previously. The agency is working with four tribes, the National Park Service and other organizations to release 89 bison onto a free-range parcel soon.
“The Bronx Zoo currently has a breeding program to establish a herd of pure bison with the goal to be able to provide animals for restoration programs in the American West,” WCS said.
You can learn more about each of these conservations efforts from the WCS.