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World Wildlife Day: 8 Stories of Successful Wildlife Conservation

Elephant washing and splashing water

World Wildlife Day is a special day dedicated to celebrating the amazing animals that we share the planet with.

It’s sort of like a birthday party for the amazing wildlife, but instead of cake and balloons, we show our love and appreciation by shining a light on the challenges they face and what we can do to safeguard their future.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of conservation, and learn about the species who are facing threats and the important roles they play in our ecosystem.

But, it’s also equally as crucial to learn about the progress and wins of our conservation efforts.

In this article, let’s explore eight times that our conservation efforts have successfully reversed the state of our wildlife.

Humpback whale

Humpback whale breaching

It wasn’t easy, but the comeback of the humpback whales are truly a remarkable achievement filled with resilience of the conservation community.

Back in the 20th century, commercial whaling was a big thing, and humpback whales were one of the most targeted species – they were hunted almost to extinction.

But in 1966, the International Whaling COmmission banned commercial whaling, and slowly but surely, the humpback whale population was able to steadily increase.

Today, the humpback whale population is estimated to be over 80,000 individuals.

It’s truly a great example of how conservation efforts and how the right policies can make a real difference for the largest creatures in the sea.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly biosphere

The monarch butterfly is an iconic species known for dazzling orange wings, as well as its remarkable migration from Canada to Mexico each year.

However, over the past few decades, the monarch butterfly population has been in steep decline due to habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide use.

The loss of milkweed plants – the only food source for monarch caterpillars – due to urbanization and agricultural expansion in North America also contributed heavily to its decline.

Despite these challenges, ongoing conservation efforts like the planting of milkweed in public spaces, habitat restoration, and reducing pesticide use helped the monarch butterfly population to survive.

California condor

Pair of California condor's

In the 1980s, the California condor was on the verge of extinction. Only 22 of North America’s largest land birds remained in the wild.

The reason for its dwindling population was thanks to several human-related factors like lead poisoning, habitat loss, pollution, and hunting. But efforts from a captive breeding program have helped its population bounce back.

Conservationists would capture wild condors to place them under the care of zoos and rehabilitation centers. The hope is that any offspring from breeding would eventually be fit to be released in the wild.

As of December 2022, there are at least 500 California condors.

Although the California condor is still categorized as a critically endangered species, their population has made an extraordinary comeback thanks to conservation efforts.

Galapagos tortoise

Large elephant tortoise

Galapagos tortoises have been around some two to three million years ago, but at one point in the 1960s, its population was down to just 15 tortoises.

Threatened by hunting and invasive species, these giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands needed the extra help from conservationists.

The creation of the Galapagos National Park in 1959 eradicated the invasive species, and halted the killing of tortoises for food. This eventually helped the tortoises rebound to at least 15,000 individuals.

Giant panda

Panda bear sleeping

The giant panda, one of the most fluffiest, beloved animals in the world, has been on the endangered species list for a long time. Their pickiness with food and special requirements for an ideal habitat did not help with their survival rate either.

But after the implementation of a captive breeding program, as well as decades of reforestation and ecological restoration efforts, the situation of the giant pandas doesn't look so bleak anymore.

The Chinese government also created strict laws to protect the giant panda from poachers and habitat loss.

In 2021, the Chinese officials declared that giant pandas are no longer endangered, but are still vulnerable.

Bald eagle

Flying adult bald eagle

The bald eagle, also known as the white-headed eagle, is probably known for its symbolism as freedom and resilience in the United States.

But the bald eagle population took a major hit in the mid-20th century due to hunting, habitat destruction, and exposure to contaminants.

In response to this crisis, the U.S. government introduced a range of conservation efforts to protect its national symbol – making it illegal to hunt, kill, or disturb, and a ban of the insecticide DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, if you had to know).

Since then, these eagles have made a major comeback and are no longer considered endangered. But that’s not to say that the bald eagles are entirely free from threats.

Bald eagles still face some form of habitat loss, lead poisoning, and electrocution from power lines.

The next time you see a bald eagle soaring through the sky, take a moment to appreciate their resilience and the work that went into protecting them.

Mountain gorilla

Profile of a mountain gorilla

With a 98% similarity in DNA, mountain gorillas are one of the closest relatives to humans. That’s why it's extra heartbreaking to hear when the population of mountain gorillas was once close to extinction.

Conservation efforts for mountain gorillas focused on habitat protection, ecotourism and a crackdown on poaching and disease transmission.

Because humans and gorillas are so similar, park rangers and conservationists who work with them also have to be sure of minimal human contact to avoid transmitting diseases.

All in all, efforts have increased the mountain gorilla population from 680 individuals in 2008 to 1,063 in 2018.

It’s not an enormous change, but it’s a number that is steadily increasing.

Gray wolf

Gray wolf

By the 1930s, the gray wolves were almost completely eradicated from most of the United States. That’s when a reintroduction program was launched to restore gray wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The reintroduction program brought a total of 31 gray wolves from Canada and sent them to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. And it was a resounding success.

Today, the population of gray wolves in the region has gone up to at least 1,700 individuals, and improved ecological balance in the region.

The success of gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is widely regarded as one of the most powerful conservation efforts in North America.

Happy World Wildlife Day!

See, it’s not always sob stories when it comes to stories about our wildlife. Conservation efforts around the world have helped countless species rebound from the brink of extinction.

We should have hope in conservation efforts and we truly believe that these success stories are only proof that it is possible to make a positive impact on the state of our wildlife.

Whether you're a nature lover, animal enthusiast, or just someone who cares about our planet, World Wildlife Day is worth celebrating!

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