8 Endangered Species Making Epic Comebacks
It's easy to become disheartened when perusing the endangered species list. However, conservationists are making strides to keep these animals from disappearing forever. Their hard work, and dedication are making enormous progress each and every day.
1. Bald eagle
One of countless victims of the egg shell-thinning effect of DDT, the bald eagle population declined from an estimated 300,000-500,000 to just 412 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in the 1950's. The national bird of the U.S. was helped by the 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act (which banned trapping and killing them), and then by the eventual ban of all uses of DDT, and the bald eagle was removed from the "threatened" list in 2007.
The American Bald Eagle Foundation and the state of Alaska have teamed up to create a 48,000 acre preserve to protect the world's largest population of Bald Eagles. You can read more about the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and make donations
2. Swift fox
Swift foxes were decimated by 1930's predator control programs that were aimed at wiping out gray wolves and coyotes. Though populations are now stable and no longer listed as endangered in the United States, the species only inhabits 40% of its former range and are still endangered in Canada. Numerous state agencies have pooled their conservation efforts to form the Swift Fox Conservation Team with the aim of restoring their population to its former size.
The Endangered Wolf Center works with the Swift Fox Conservation Team as well as other groups collaborating to preserve and increase swift fox populations. You can read more about them and sponsor their efforts by "adopting" a swift fox here.
3. Peregrine falcon
Like many species, the peregrine falcon was moved to the endangered species list prior to the restriction of DDT, which weakened the calcium content of eggs and thus dramatically decreased the percentage of falcons that survived until they hatched.
With pesticides more closely regulated now and captive breeding operations enormously successful, the peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list in 1999. Captive bred falcons are fed via a chute or a peregrine hand puppet (so as to prevent them from imprinting on the human trainers). Over time, feeding is reduced and the falcons are forced to learn to hunt before being fully released into the wild.
As the world's largest member-supported raptor conservation organization, Hawk Mountain in Kempton, Penn., offers international conservation training and plays a large role in scientific research. You can join their organization by purchasing a membership here or volunteering at the preserve.
4. American alligator
Threatened by over-hunting and habitat loss, the United States Fishing and Wildlife Service has teamed up with state wildlife agencies to restrict and regulate legal commerce of alligator meat and products. Their efforts have resulted in the American alligator being removed from the endangered species list in 1987, and they are now listed in the "Least Concern" category, indicating a profound comeback.
The National Parks Conservation Association seeks to protect America's national parks, including ones with important American alligator habitats such as Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park and others.
5. Black-footed ferret
The black-footed ferret was thought extinct, their population ravaged by plague and human contact with their main food source, the prairie dog. Then a Wyoming woman's dog showed up with a dead black-footed ferret in its mouth in 1981, leading to the discovery of a few dozen.
In 1987, 18 black-footed ferrets were artificially inseminated with the hopes of reviving the species. Reintroduction began in 1991 and as of 2013, a total of 1200 is believed to live in the wild. Despite their monumental comeback, they are still listed as endangered and efforts to protect them are fought by ranchers seeking to control prairie dog populations on their land.
The Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team is tracking the progress of countless state and federal agencies, non-profits, universities, and conservation groups as they strive to bring back black-footed ferret populations. You can follow along with the ferret's recovery and learn more about how you can help here.
6. California condor
The California condor was nearly wiped out by effects of the pesticide DDT, lead poisoning from feeding on carrion with bullet fragments inside, power line collisions, and human contact.
In 1987, the 22 remaining members of the species were captured and put into captive breeding operations. The newly bred population were trained to avoid humans and power lines, which aided in their survival. As of 2013, there are believed to be 435 California condors (237 in the wild and 198 in captivity). They are still critically endangered and extremely rare, but scientists have gathered evidence that they are breeding in the wild so there remains hope for the species, especially with groups like the Center for Biological Diversity spearheading efforts to protect this rare, slowly rebounding species.
7. Florida panther
By the 1970's, the panther population had been reduced to an estimated 20 remaining in the wild. Conservation efforts have boosted the population to 160 as of 2013, but this species still faces countless challenges in its fight for survival.
Human encroachment has devastated the Florida panther's habitat. Each breeding unit (one male with anywhere from two to five females) needs a wide, 200 square mile expanse to establish their territory. So, our population of 160 panthers needs 32,000 square miles. We have made available an estimated 3,800 square miles for them.
Additionally, vehicular collisions, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, inbreeding, and contact with chemicals that feminize male panthers and decrease their likelihood of reproducing are also contributing to this species' struggle.
Conservation efforts have centered around maintaining their habitat in the face of a rapidly developing south Florida real estate market. Numerous conservation groups have proposed the Florida Panther Protection Program to establish a large, contiguous habitat for the species.
8. Przewalski's horse
Their population of this never-domesticated horse declined as its habitat was lost or degraded due to human interference. The last sighting of Przewalski's horse in the wild was in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia in 1969.
The Przewalski's horse has endured a long road to recovery, rebounding from a captive population of only 15 in the 1970s to more than 400 in the wild today (with another 1,500 in captivity). Reintroduction programs in China, Khazakstan, and Mongolia are proving fruitful so far, but genetic diversity and inbreeding remain a serious concern.
Overseeing efforts to restore this wild horse to the fields it once roamed is the Conservation Centers for Species Survival. Their successful conservation efforts -- and the never-ending works of others -- prove that it's never too late to save a population from the brink of extinction.