Ten animals and their stories of conservation in the past ten years

Ten animals and their stories of conservation in the past ten years


This post was previously published on The Starfish. It is reposted here with permission.

Our earth is home to a breathtaking 8.7 million species of animals. Each is unique, and all are vitally important to the ecosystems to which they belong. However, a myriad of threats is looming over the animal kingdom, from habitat destruction and poaching to climate change and pollution.

But it’s not all bad news! Every year, species come back from the brink of extinction. Around the world, the collective efforts of activist groups and government protections help to save the enriched biodiversity. Here are five well-known animals that made a resurgence in the last decade.

Who has made a comeback?

1. Humpback whales

After being hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1970s,  humpback whales have made a remarkable comeback. The East Coast of Africa alone has seen a resurgence from 600 whales to a bountiful.

The baleen and blubber of these animals was coveted for over 200 years. However, recent global enforcement of laws against commercial whaling has allowed this species to quietly thrive in their natural habitat (TIME, 2020).30,000 (National Geographic, 2019).

Whales are an amazing resource in the fight against climate change – on average, a whale will absorb 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide in its lifetime. This carbon is never released back into the atmosphere; it remains in the animal even after death.  If you’d like to support the further conservation of these environmentally-friendly sea creatures, WDC is a great place to donate.

2. Giant pandas

The giant panda is perhaps one of the most famous animals, known for its lovable appearance and geographical rarity. Synonymous with the World Wildlife Fund, the giant panda has become the universal symbol for animal conversation.

In the past, giant panda populations dwindled due to poaching and deforestation of their primary food source: bamboo. Over the years, the Chinese government, activist groups, and nature reserve groups have worked hard to bring these exceptional creatures back from the brink of extinction.

However, this doesn’t mean that these pandas don’t still need our help. The WWF welcomes donations to help these animals, even hosting an Adopt-a-Panda program to provide funds to care for these creatures.

3. Grey wolves

Wolves are one of the most recognized creatures in the world, and for good reason. They are dominant predators, always keeping the food chain in check. They symbolize devotion, intelligence, and pack spirit. However, humans weren’t always loyal to these magnificent creatures. The species was hunted nearly to extinction in the 1950s and 60s in the US when only a few hundred wolves remained. Forced to turn to eat livestock for food.

Governments and wildlife agencies fought back to protect this species. . Federal protection for the grey wolf is what really gave these animals a chance to thrive. Now, in November of 2020, the US Fish & Wildlife Service announced the successful recovery of this species. To continue the conservation of grey wolves (or Mexican wolves, with only 163 left in the wild US), you can make a donation to the Wolf Conservation Center.

4. Snow leopards

Snow leopards are universally revered for their cool and regal composure, as well as their distinct markings. However, despite the love that they garner, snow leopards have had an uphill battle with conservation. Poaching has been a major concern for these animals, with almost 4 killed per week (circa 2016). Illegal trade and high demand for these exclusive furs create a very harmful market for exploiting snow leopards.

However, WWF has been working with citizens of Mongolia and the Himalayas, where snow leopard populations are very prevalent, in order to reduce levels of human-leopard conflict in areas where both reside. In 2017, snow leopards were reclassified from “Endangered “to “Vulnerable”, and the population has begun to increase once again. The Snow Leopard Trust is a great place to donate toward the further aid of these animals, as well as the Adopt-a-Snow-Leopard program run by the WWF.

5. Steller sea lions

During the mid to late 20th century, overfishing and ocean pollution resulted in the dramatic decline of sea lion populations on the west coast of the US. In 1990, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) listed the Steller sea lion as endangered.

The ongoing provisions of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act helped prevent hunting and fishing that was harming this species. In October 2013, sea lions were unlisted from the Endangered Species Act and were declared at Optimal Population Size (OPS). However, Steller sea lions on the coast of California still face threats like pollution, illegal hunting, and habitat degradation. If you wish to support the further renewal of this species, WWF is a great place to start.

Who still needs our help?

All the animals above had wonderful success stories thanks to the hard work of activists and governments collaborating around the world. However, many species are still crucially endangered. Here are five animals that are still fighting their battle for conservation (and need our help)!

1. Orangutans

Populating the Southeast Asian Islands, orangutans are listed as “Critically Endangered” by the WWF, with the total population of this mammal more than halving in the last century. Deforestation and illegal hunting are the main threat to these animals.

There are several great charities that strive to protect this critically endangered animal. Adopt-an-Orangutan by the WWF. The Sumatran Orangutan Society offers ways to contribute directly to preserving and restoring the rainforest destroyed in Sumatran. If you’d like to learn more about these animals, Save the Orangutan has great information available for public access.

2. Blue whales

Everyone knows about blue whales; they’re the largest animal on Earth, with an average weight of 200 tonnes and a call louder than a jet engine. The good news is commercial whaling is no longer a threat to these impressive creatures. The bad news, however, is the fact that these endangered animals are facing an even bigger threat: climate change.

In order to survive, blue whales must consume approximately 4 tonnes of krill everyday. However, the warming of the seas is killing off a large number of these shrimp-like organisms every year. With their main food source at risk, blue whales are at risk, too. In addition to donations to a variety of organizations that will help ensure a future for the largest mammal in the world. You can even symbolically Adopt-a-Blue-Whale through the WWF.

3. Tigers

With their attention-grabbing stripes and majestic composure, tigers are not only king of the food chain but the crown jewel of the Asian animal kingdom as well. However, they are listed as endangered due to extreme habitat loss and human-tiger conflict.

An estimated 95% of their original habitat was lost to the agriculture and timber industries. Save Tigers Now is a movement by WWF and actor Leonardo DiCaprio with the aim of doubling the tiger population by 2022. Panthera is another world-renowned charity that offers information on tigers as well as an opportunity to contribute to the cause.

4. African elephant

The African elephant is globally recognized for its hulking frame and gentle nature. However, these elephants carry a high-demand good in their very tusks: ivory. Some estimates predict the slaughter of 100 elephants every day by hunters, as the demand for ivory is, sadly, greater than the demand for elephant conservation. In 1989, the international trade of elephant ivory was banned. While this allowed for the recovery of some populations, more and more illegal poachers began to spring up around the continent, in part because the price of ivory has become ten times more expensive than before the ban.

There are countless organizations that operate with the sole goal to protect African elephant populations. Save the Elephants is a great charity that spends 90% of all donations directly on elephant conservation projects.

5. Eastern lowland gorilla

Populating much of the Republic of Congo, the eastern lowland gorilla is the largest and most endangered of all the gorilla subspecies. A critically endangered animal, scientists estimate that the total population has more than halved since the 1950s. It is currently impossible to provide accurate estimates of the gorilla population due to the civil violence in the Congo.

The urbanization of the gorilla’s habitat is another reason for a decline in the population. Logging, mining, and farming companies continually deforest land for corporate purposes. Furthermore, these newly accessible jungles allow poachers to kill and sell gorilla bushmeat, a sign of wealthiness in central Africa.

Adding to the problem is the fact that one female gorilla will only give birth to 3 or 4 babies in her lifetime. This makes population recovery very difficult. To donate to the protection of this noble species, The Gorilla Organization and The Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund are both great charities.

How can you contribute to conservation? 

We’ve explored the story of ten animals and the conservation of their species. No matter where we are in the narrative, each example should be taken as a cautionary tale. Take a dive further into reading about any of the animals that interest you, and please consider making a donation to support charities and activist groups. Join the worldwide endeavour for a wild future, and together we can write a better chapter for animals in the future.


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