Each year a lot of effort goes into conserving species that are under tremendous threat of extinction. And yet despite those targeted efforts, overall rates of biodiversity loss are still increasing. In a recent study, experts discovered that for 58% of the world’s land surface the loss of biodiversity was serious enough to call into question its ability to sustain the 5.3 billion people who live there .
So, does that mean that all our efforts are delivering no results at all?
That is certainly not the case, as 7 conservation success stories tell us!
#1 White-tailed eagle
The white-tailed eagle, also known as “sea eagle,” went extinct in Britain in 1917. They were the UK’s largest birds of prey [2,3]. Since then, a number of efforts to reintroduce it took place later in the 20th century and today, surveys indicate that there are 106 pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland. What is most impressive is that government reports project that their population is likely to increase further: 225 pairs by 2025 .
A Scottish government report predicts that the number of white-tailed eagles is likely to around 221 pairs by 2025. The reintroduction of this species highlights the importance of stakeholders working together to protect and enhance our natural environment. In this case, in addition to environmental charities such as the UK’s RSPB, farmers and crofters joined forces to help ensure a successful reintroduction of the white-tailed eagle.
#2 Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel
The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel is larger than other squirrel species and it once ranged throughout the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia before it experienced a sharp decline population due to deforestation, short-rotation timber harvest and over-hunting. By 1967, when it was listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, its range reduced more than 90%.
But after more than 40 years of conservation, where among other things, regulators and others helped the growth and dispersal of the population and protected large forested areas for habitat, the population of this lovely fluffy-tailed fox squirrel, is rebounding.
In 2015, US authorities announced that its recovery was such that it could be de-listed as it was “no longer at risk of extinction” [4,5].
#3 Green sea turtle
The green sea turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among different species; it is still considered an endangered species due to the overharvesting of its eggs, hunting, the risk posed by fishing gear and loss of habitat for nesting .
Nevertheless, while in the 1980s, University of Central Florida researchers would count fewer than 50 nests per year during the nesting season across the stretch of beach in Florida’s Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, in September 2015, a new record was set: researchers reported counting 12,026 nests, much higher compared to the previous record of 11,839 nests in 2013 .
The increase in nests gives some hope that in the future green sea turtle populations will reach sustainable levels again in the wild.
#4 Large Blue Butterfly
The Large Blue, the largest and rarest of blue butterflies, is the only recently extinct butterfly species in the UK. Despite conservation efforts, the species died out due to habitat loss, poor management of traditional haunts and, finally, the onset of Myxomatosis which obliterated Britain’s rabbit population. This impacted Large Blues as rabbits would maintain the short-cropped grassland that Large Blues, and their food plant, the Wild Thyme, depended on.
The species was reintroduced in the 1980s when butterflies where brought in from Sweden. Since then, the population of Large Blues has been increasing and now the UK holds the largest population of this species found anywhere in the world .
#5 Scarlet Macaw
The Scarlet Macaw, a wonderfully colourful bird, has made a successful re-entry into the rainforests of the Gulf of Mexico from where it was wiped out 50 years earlier.
27 macaws have been released into the Biosphere Reserve of Los Tuxtlas in southern Veracruz as a first step towards restoring the wild population of these birds which had been previously under threat of habitat loss and intense exploitation for the pet trade .
#6 Golden lion tamarin monkey
The golden lion tamarins are squirrel-sized Brazilian monkeys with a long golden fur thought to be extinct until the 1970s, when 200 were accidentally discovered in the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil.
Since then, a concerted conservation effort and captive breeding programme has been implemented to increase populations and reintroduce them to 17 forest fragments. This great effort by local and international actors has paid off and today 1,200 or more now live in the wild [9,10].
#7 Bengali tiger
India’s Bengal tiger numbers have been in steep decline, by up to 60%, due to ever increasing human population numbers expanding into once pristine habitats. But now villagers are beginning to relocate voluntarily to make space for the tigers and other endangered species.
More specifically, at the request of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, 200 families that lived in a village bordering a tiger reserve in central India relocated. As a result of this bold action, just a little over two months later, a host of animals that had formerly been kept at bay moved back in- including the critically endangered tigers. Across India, nearly 100 villages have so far agreed to relocate; a most impressive show of commitment towards conserving our precious wildlife .