Gorillas, Mongolian trees and more
- More than a quarter of all assessed species, more than 40,000, are threatened with extinction.
- Of the 201 listed critically endangered species, 10 are seeing their populations increase and 12 are stabilizing.
- Species such as mountain gorillas, Siamese crocodiles and Chinese magnolias have all recorded population growth.
At a time when discussions about the health and future of our planet more often stir up fear and anxiety, the conservation victories that have saved several species from the brink of extinction offer a ray of hope.
In a statement released earlier this month, Fauna and Flora International, the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organization, listed several species that have since rebounded from near extinction.
More than a quarter of all assessed species, more than 40,000, are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of the 201 listed critically endangered species, 10 are seeing their populations increase and 12 are stabilizing.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last August, which United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment for failure of climate leadership”, as well as “code red for humanity”.
The IPCC report notes that plants and animals have already exceeded their tolerance thresholds to increasing heat waves, droughts and floods, which cause “mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. “.
Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC, said the report highlights “the interdependence of climate, biodiversity” and the dire consequences of inaction.
“Half measures are no longer an option,” Lee said.
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This Earth Day recognizes those animal and plant species that have almost ceased to exist.
The Arabian oryx, a desert antelope from southern Yemen, has been nearly decimated by hunters until a breeding program to capture the last remaining wild oryx is put in place.
Hunting continues to pose a serious threat to the oryx, according to the FFI, which helped launch a breeding program that led to the species’ remarkable recovery three decades later.
The oryx was the world’s first example of the successful reintroduction of an animal declared extinct in the wild to its original habitat. In 1982, a heavily guarded herd of 10 oryx were released into the open desert of central Oman to be studied intensively while living independently. Today, more than 1,000 Arabian oryx roam the Middle East.
The species was reclassified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2011.
A combination of hunting and habitat destruction throughout the 20th century has driven the mountain gorilla, an extremely rare primate, to the brink of extinction.
Two isolated populations of mountain gorillas live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and on the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
About 1,063 mountain gorillas remain in the world today, according to FFI. In 2018, the species was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Now that the population is growing, conservationists will expand the gorilla’s habitat and “allow endangered species to thrive”, the African Wildlife Foundation said.
In 2018, the park expanded the protected area for the first time in nearly 30 years thanks to a donation from AWF, which donated a nearly 69-acre parcel of land adjacent to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda Development Board.
The donation and partnership between AWF and the Government of Rwanda has since resulted in an innovative conservation strategy that adds 9,242 acres of forest habitat to Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.
Pemba flying fox
The Pemba flying fox, Africa’s largest fruit bat with a wingspan of 5.5ft, found only on the remote island of Pemba off the coast of Tanzania, nearly went extinct a while ago 30 years.
These bats hang from trees in large colonies and feed on flowers, leaves and fruit. Once an island rich in coastal forests where rare bats could thrive, their habitat has shrunk due to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.
The East African coastal forest, home to the Pemba flying fox, is a biodiversity hotspot with more than 500 endemic plants and 37 endemic vertebrates, according to the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
Conservation efforts to save the critically endangered fruit bat began in 1995 and inspired the government to enact island-wide regulations resulting in the bat population’s dramatic recovery from a few hundred to more than 22,000.
The wild Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline species in the world whose population has migrated far from its original habitat on the Iberian Peninsula.
At one time, their population was thought to be below 100 due to loss of cork oak forest habitat and rabbit prey.
An initiative to secure and manage 49,420 acres of the animal’s habitat in southern Portugal some 20 years ago led to the successful reintroduction of this critically endangered wildcat. Conservation measures have seen its population exceed 400, according to the WWF.
Cambodia is home to around 250 of the surviving wild population of Siamese Crocodiles who live in the remote wilderness of the Cardamom Mountains.
The freshwater species was widespread across mainland Southeast Asia but has disappeared from 99% of its former wetland habitats, according to FFI.
Since the endangered reptile was rediscovered in 2000 by a team monitoring the area, local communities and the Cambodian government have made strides to protect the remaining wild crocodiles and their habitat by establishing sanctuaries.
A conservation breeding program to release pure breeds into the mountains has been started to help reptiles that have a slow breeding season.
Today, the rare reptile can be found in small, fragmented populations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
You can see many variations of magnolia species around the world, but these gorgeous blooms still have a long way to go.
Many magnolia species were and are still heading towards extinction in the wild. In 2005, FFI’s Global Tree Campaign saved the critically endangered Chinese magnolia that had nearly reached the point of no return in a remote rainforest in southern Yunnan, China.
The population has increased since this initiative through the reintroduction of young trees grown in nurseries.