What does Jackie Chan, Paul McCartney and Prince William have in common? They have all spoken up about the plight of tigers and the urgent need to halt their decline . Indeed, many personalities – from film stars and song writers to models and other celebrities – are doing their bit to raise awareness about vanishing species.
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 percent 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 these great campaigns to save the Earth’s vanishing species tell us! Let’s have a look at some of the best campaigns that organizations have put together.
What is being done to save endangered species?
Campaign #1: Protecting the Earth’s lungs, the Amazon rainforest
There are many projects supporting the Amazon, not least since it is home to one in ten known species and provides a home for 30 million people. Some of these projects look at individual species or areas but one of the most encompassing ones was the one mounted to create the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA).
The success of the programme so far can be attributed in the good planning, financing and management of the programme as well as the support of the local people. In the case of the ARPA, the programme is implemented by the Brazilian government, funded by the World Wildlife Fund (GEF) and managed by the World Bank, with partners like the German government, WWF and several international donors .
The ARPA has greatly contributed to the great drop in the greenhouse gas emissions of Brazil as well as falling rates of deforestation. But the really big difference was how the ARPA involved and mobilized the local communities making people invested in its success. Even though the ARPA now funds 114 federal and state areas, the local communities always participate in the management and conservation of these areas.
The programme developed an innovative mechanism for managing protected areas which transfers small amounts of money to land managers. This type of systems results in positive effects as regards poverty eradication as well as preventing deforestation. What is more, the biodiversity monitoring system implemented in a few selected areas, directly involves the local populations in data collection .
Campaign #2: Reviewing Europe’s Birds and Habitats Directives
It is not very often that someone talks about European Union Directives inciting public support and mobilization. This is not to say that EU legislation is not fundamental to our environment – from clean air and water to climate change and biodiversity – but oftentimes that legislation is seen as too technical.
Well, that was certainly not the case when after several decades of operation, the European Commission decided to open up two key pieces of EU law on birds and habitats.
The EU Birds and Habitats Directives protect the most precious parts of Europe’s nature and form the backbone of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which covers 18 percent of Europe’s land and six percent of its seas .
These two pieces of legislation are therefore historical not only because they were the first EU laws on the environment but also because they introduced core principles of conservation. Fearing that reviewing the laws would lead to them being considerably watered down, environmental charities from across Europe mobilized their substantial networks and citizen support came pouring in.
Major awareness campaigns were coordinated by Birdlife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF Europe and over 120 European NGOs  and in December 2016 the EU announced that the ambition of the laws will remain intact but that an action plan would be developed to improve the implementation of the laws. The voice of citizens had been heard!
But the story does not end there: it is an important to follow the process and make sure the action plan developed will really deliver environmental protection for Europe’s most vulnerable habitats and species!
Campaign #3: Saving the rhinos
The initiative to save Africa’s rhinos
All five species of rhino are threatened with extinction. When it comes to Africa’s black rhinos, these are critically endangered with a population of under 5,000 . While at around 18,000, the southern white rhino is most numerous, with the vast majority of its populating living in South Africa .
In Africa, the effects of large-scale poaching have been truly devastating bringing down the white rhino population as low as 50 to 100 individuals at the beginning of 1990’s, and 2,300 black rhinos . Since then, conservationists and governments have put in place reintroduction programmes to repopulate rhinos – as a result, rhino populations rose to the current numbers. But despite this success in Africa, the dangers for rhinos have not been fully thwarted. Poachers are still active, and their techniques are becoming more sophisticated.
But through awareness raising campaigns, people from different backgrounds decided to join in the efforts to help rhinos. After all, the responsibility for protecting our planet does not just fall on the shoulders of ecologists, environmental charities or governments. And this is how former military servicemen and -women are helping to stop illegal poaching.
An example of such an organization is Vetpaw, set up by US veteran Ryan Tate who was moved by the plight of rhinos after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. He and his team work across a dozen private game reserves in South Africa. This provides an advantage to the local landowners who benefit from their protection.
The Vetpaw team is also running training courses for local guides and security staff. The initiative, and others similar to Vetpaw, have also been criticized as potentially inciting an arms race with the poachers who are well-funded and part of transnational syndicates. But perhaps this is an example where extreme situations call for extreme measures.
Zero rhino poaching in Nepal
And now some very positive environmental news… According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the country of Nepal celebrated in 2018 five years of zero rhino poaching .
The success of this achievement involved cooperation between Nepal’s governmental policy, its army, national park staff, their national police force, collaboration with national and international NGOs such as WWF, and the involvement of local communities that live in and around reserve areas. Nepal has also cracked down on wildlife criminals since the creation of a national Wildlife Crime Bureau and have employed meaningful prison sentences for poaching.
The greater one-horned rhino had been reduced down to fewer than 100 individuals at the turn of the 20th century due to sport hunting and loss of habitat. Today, thanks to conservation efforts such as what is currently occurring in Nepal, the greater one-horned rhinoceros has increased in number to more than 3,600 individuals worldwide .
Although many other species and subspecies of rhinos around the world today are suffering from poaching, this work on rhino recovery in Nepal provides a glimmer of hope in a world that is experiencing unprecedented environmental crises and perhaps provides a blueprint of a possible way forward for the conservation of other wildlife species.
So far, the greater one-horned rhino is one of the biggest conservation success stories in Asia and has been the only large mammal so far that has been downlisted from endangered status to vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
And the fight for rhinos goes on…
Conservationists in both India (where there are other populations of this rhino species) and Nepal, along with WWF, are now working to restore the rhino population further into suitable habitat. Translocating the rhinos around to different areas of suitable habitat ensures sufficient habitat space for the animals and reduces the chance of overcrowding and disease breakouts.
Heightened security measures and involvement from local communities is helping to protect the rhinos from further poaching. The released rhinos are fitted with collars and are tracked by biologists to keep an update on their health and safety status.
However, the poaching of African rhino species continues even today, so the work on their protection continues. Perhaps these lessons learned from the conservation successes of this rhino species in Nepal will serve as examples of what may help to reverse the tide of rhino poaching in Africa and of other wildlife species around the world.
Other wildlife conservation success stories to remember
The white-tailed eagle, also known as “sea eagle,” went extinct in Britain in 1917. They were the UK’s largest birds of prey. Since then, a number of efforts to reintroduce them took place later in the 20th century and today, surveys indicate that there are 106 pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland .
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 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSBP), farmers and crofters joined forces to help ensure a successful reintroduction of the white-tailed eagle.
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 percent .
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 2014, US authorities announced that its recovery was such that it could be de-listed as it was “no longer at risk of extinction” .
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 1980’s, 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.
Large blue butterfly
The large blue, the largest and rarest of blue butterflies, hold the sad status of being the only extinct butterfly species in the UK. Despite conservation efforts, the species died out in 1970’s due to habitat loss, poor management of traditional haunts and, finally, the onset of Myxomatosis which obliterated Britain’s rabbit population. This impacted butterflies as rabbits would maintain the short-cropped grassland that large blues, and their food plant, the Wild Thyme, depended on.
However, thanks to the determination of conservationists, the UK’s once extinct species was reintroduced in the 1980’s when butterflies were brought in from Sweden. Since then, their population has been increasing and now the UK holds the largest population of this species found anywhere in the world.
The Scarlet Macaw, a wonderfully colorful 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.
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, after 30 years of conservation effort and captive breeding program has been implemented to increase tamarin population by bringing 47 tamarins from different severely fragmented groups in isolated forest habitats to one protected area–the União Biological Reserve. This great reintroduction effort by local and international actors, like Smithsonian Institution and the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program, has paid off and today 1,400 tamarins live in the wild .