Here are five inspiring stories about five different species that were driven to the brink of destruction by humans, and then miraculously saved through tremendous human efforts. They represent some of the most powerful examples of human conservation endeavors in recent history.
1. Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
In turn-of-the-century America, the wolf was one thing: an enemy. It was a threat to livestock, to livelihood, and (by the beliefs of the time) lives. Bounties were placed on the lives of wolves, and they were hunted – exterminated – as Public Enemy Number One. No animal better reflects the history of the environmental movement: as attitudes shifted in the years since their extirpation, captive breeding and reintroduction programs have been put in place. Land has been protected, and populations have been nursed back to health. Now, wolves are slowly returning, via a combination of natural expansion and reintroduction efforts. Populations have grown enough that wolves and humans are butting heads again. Tensions have reached a climax with the removal of the species from the Endangered Species List and the recent wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. The future of wolves will bear heavily on the future of conservation in general.
2. California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
The second-largest vulture in the world is unfortunately the rarest. Around 30 years ago, in 1982, there were only 22 of these massive birds in the wild. Nobody is really sure what California condor numbers were like before their decline, though in times long past they likely ranged from coast to coast. In 1987, the remaining handful was taken into captivity, and an intensive breeding program was launched. Reintroduction began in 1992. Today, though it is still in critical condition, the condor is considered a textbook example of the potential of captive breeding. There are more than 320 total condors now, with around 170 of these birds surviving in the wild.
3. Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinators)
This largest of North American birds represents a triumph of management efforts in the face of historic overexploitation. The trumpeter swan was heavily hunted for its feathers and as food throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were all but exterminated from the southern part of their range, finding refuge only in Canada and Alaska. Thanks to management efforts, they have since rebounded. Reintroduction efforts have met with mixed success, but US Fish & Wildlife data show a 400% increase in all three major populations over the last 30 year period. In 2006, a pair released from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago became the first known wild trumpeters nesting in Illinois since 1847. America’s most impressive waterfowl is now dealing with competition from the introduced mute swan in some locations, but all signs point toward a general recovery.
4. Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes)
They are North America’s only native ferret species, and were early additions to the Endangered Species List, being added in 1967. When Americans took over the Great Plains, the black-footed ferret began a steep decline. By the 1960’s, they were down to one known population in South Dakota. In 1974, this colony vanished. The species was presumed extinct. In 1981, a farm dog helped rediscover a small population in Wyoming. Unfortunately, this population crashed as well, due to disease. The 18 surviving ferrets were taken into captivity in the mid-80s. Today, a wild population of 800-1,000 individuals exists, with a goal of 1,500 wild ferrets by 2010. The entire population owes its existence to those fateful 18 animals.
5. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
The Peregrine is the best example of the harmful effects of pesticides. Falcon populations collapsed in the 1960’s due to reproductive failure. Scientists noticed the decline, and eventually realized that DDT was destroying eggshells. Some argue that the modern Environmental Movement was born when Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring about the effects of pesticides on birds (falcon included), and public opinion swung against indiscriminate pesticide use. In 1972, the EPA put a controversial ban on the use of DDT. Recovery efforts began, and again captive breeding was an important component. Though the falcon was almost gone from the lower 48 by the time steps were taken to save it, the species made an incredible recovery. Since then, the falcon has been removed from the federal Endangered Species List. It is now a familiar figure in many American cities, where it substitutes skyscrapers for the usual cliffs and feasts on pigeons.
Photo Credits: Gray Wolf | California Condor | Trumpeter Swan | Black-footed Ferret | Peregrine Falcon
The conservation work of many different governments and private organizations has brought back literally hundreds of different endangered species from the brink of extinction and back to stable populations. Due to human encroachment, habitat destruction or general climate change, several species have needed to be saved. Here are four animals from North America that, if not for human intervention, would have probably gone extinct.
The Bowhead Whale of the cold arctic waters around Alaska is one of the most threatened species of whale in the entire ocean. Though they are migratory, they spend their entire lives in cold northern waters; filter feeding for krill and small crustaceans. Bowheads were first hunted by humans for their meat, blubber and oil beginning as early as the 1600’s. Historically, hunting could continue while populations remained stable but as fleets whaling fleets grew bigger and more efficient, soon the Bowheads were in trouble. Recognizing this, many governments and independent groups began to fight for he bowhead. Thanks to anti-hunting agreements between major nations such and the US and Japan, bowhead populations have begun to recover and recently rose above 10,000 individuals in the wild. Today, hunting Bowheads is nearly entirely illegal; the only people allowed to hunt bowhead whales still are select Inuit tribes in Alaska. For thousands of years, these people have harvested whales from the sea in a sustainable and spiritual way that many see as essential to their way of life, so they are allowed to continue to harvest whales.
Probably due to its stature as a national symbol and icon, the Bald Eagle became one of the first targets of species protection following a 1963 report that claimed only 417 nesting pairs of eagles in the entire country. Most attribute their decline to the increased use of pesticides such as DDT, which has been scientifically proven to weaken bird eggs, as well as from human expansion into their natural habitats. Thanks to the work of private organizations and the Federal Government, the Bald Eagle was spared from extinction and has since made a healthy and speedy recovery. In fact, on May 18th, 2007, the US Senate created Endangered Species Day to celebrate the protection of these and other animals like them. Their recovery serves as a testament to the success of the Endangered Species Act as today, the US can boast more that 9200 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles and they have since been removed from the endangered species list entirely.
The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America, standing nearly five feet tall; however their height did nothing to prevent their near extinction during the twentieth century. By the mid-fifties, human expansion had destroyed or polluted nearly all the habitat these migratory birds visited during their winters in the southern United States and only around 50 were left in the wild. In 1967 they were added to the Endangered Species List and with the help of the Migratory Bird Act, several bills were introduced to protect these giant birds. Thanks to conservation efforts to prevent further destruction to their migratory homes, the birds were able to find safe homes in wildlife sanctuaries around the nation. Now, estimates place their populations over 500, still greatly at risk, but more than ten times the birds there were just half a century ago. However, scientists are baffled at a recently discovered of twenty cranes that died from a flock of almost 300 in 2009.
Perhaps the finest example of an animal saved from the brink of extinction is the American Buffalo. With thick, dark, shaggy fur, these beasts can stand more than six feet tall and weighs as much as a ton. These massive animals once roamed the great plains in herds more than a million strong, but once Europeans began to move west across the continent they were hunted mercilessly. By 1820, no wild Buffalo remained east of the Mississippi River and by the turn of the century, there were little more than 1000 individuals left in the wild. Fearing the loss of this iconic western staple, many organizations worked diligently to preserve these animals. Groups like the American Bison Society have spend more than a century protecting these animals and reintroducing them wild areas such as Yellowstone National Park; one of the first places Buffalo began to thrive again after their near extinction. The American Bison is no longer endangered thanks to rigorous protection efforts and that original population of about 1000 has ballooned into a booming 450,000+ animals. Today the majority of Bison are raised on ranches for their hides and meat which is surprisingly low in cholesterol and fat. There are about 50,000 truly wild buffalo that still roam the great plains and still thousands more in preserves, national parks and on private property.
If you want to be able to watch one, watch the movie “The Amazing Panda Adventure” (1995). Great, great movie (I know it sounds korny, but come on! Its so good!)
The Puget Sound resotration project was and is an attempt to clean up the Puget Sound, saving dozens if not hundreds of plants and animals.
I hope this helped!
One story that could be viewed as good or bad is Ted Turner’s work with the state of Montana on the buffalo population. On his many acres of land, he is housing buffalo which allows them to sustain their population; however, their is private hunting on the land.
New Zealand has been turning some of their smaller islands into protected spaces for their endangered land birds. Birds such as the Kiwi have been rapidly decreasing since the introduction of predators (cats, dogs, rodents) to New Zealand. By turning islands into sanctuaries for these birds, they have seen success in reviving the species.
There is an amazing story in 2007 about a woman who saved and raised a lion named Jupiter for years after it was found abused in a traveling circus. Eventually, she had to let the little guy go. Later, when he was fully grown, the lion recognized her through the bars at the zoo he was donated to, and hugged her extensively! It was really touching. The first citation is an article on the matter; the second is a youtube video of that moment when they reunite after years of being apart.
Click here to cancel reply.
Sorry,At this time user registration is disabled. We will open registration soon!
Don't have an account? Click Here to Signup
© Copyright GreenAnswers.com LLC